The Kingdom of God?

I had a hard time sleeping the other night. It started around midnight, long after my wife and all the animals had gone to sleep. Indeed, I had drifted off at 8:30 or so. We are early to bed and early to rise, although I steal several hours in the dead of most nights to read, the purest of solitary pleasures.

So I awoke, and lay abed for a spell trying to drift away. It was quiet. I puzzled over legal problems in some of my cases. When they were sorted and left to percolate, I tossed and turned again. I wasn't troubled; no, I was excited. I couldn't stop thinking about several of the books I've been reading in recent weeks, and how eager I was to begin another.

At 12:45, I turned the light on. My wife did not stir. Neither did the cats. All else was quiet, my mind once again drawn to an impossible thought, a question that has been haunting me now for decades, but which I can rarely mutter the courage to utter aloud: Is the Kingdom of God at hand?

I portray myself as a pagan, a godless sort wandering through the years with no particular destination in mind, and no place in the wider world of spirit to call home. But is that entirely candid? I cannot help but wonder, year after year in arguments forever waged in the silence of my mind, whether there is more to the world that we can sense. I want there to be more. But I do not trust my desire.

So I've been reading books about the historical Jesus. I have an annotated bibliography of historical Jesus research on the bookshelf next to my desk. I am working through several works by current scholars, and I am sketching out a broader reading plan. A copy of Thomas Chubb's “The True Gospel of Jesus Christ Asserted,” written in 1737, arrived the other day. The scholars mark his work as a turning point in modern times.

How did a young Jewish manual laborer come to loom so large that his birth divides the millennia into eras? This is a mystery to me. And it is a fact about which I have scoffed, ridiculing those who find consolation in old tales implausibly told.

I am hesitant to write candidly about this interest of mine. In recent years, several prosecutors against whom I have litigated have become friends. They pray for me, they say. One sends books; another recommends G.K. Chesterton. We sometimes talk about things unrelated to our avocations as lawyers but about our true vocation as men alive to the world's possibilities. They see God's hand at work in the world, but I am blind.

Last night, I opened a recent work on Jesus's parables, and it is as if blinders fell from my eyes. I saw no vision of the divine, and I heard no voice. I am not Saul on the road to Damascus. Unlike Joshua, my hip is unbroken after a night of wrestling. But yet the author's rendering of the parables as means of illustrating Jesus's conviction that the Kingdom of God is at hand did not fall on ears made entirely of stone. Are there truths there, just beyond the words?

A good friend professes shock when I tell him what I am reading. Jesus? He had his fill at the hands of the nuns. I tell him I, too, thought I'd had my fill, although those who fed me were Protestant. But then I tell him a truth I had not expected to utter. There is more to the life of this enigmatic preacher than I had realized. Is this a sign of something akin to belief, and if so, belief in what, exactly? I am puzzled and as alive as I was when as a child I first read with wonder and hope about a man I have long since forsaken. What, I wonder, will help my unbelief?

Reprinted courtesy of The Connecticut Law Tribune.

Comments: (4)

  • "What, I wonder, will help my unbelief?"Keep Readi...
    "What, I wonder, will help my unbelief?"Keep Reading.A listing of some of the books you are reading would be interesting. And, good luck.
    Posted on January 11, 2009 at 9:24 am by Anonymous
  • The ONLY way a mortal man can read the Bible with ...
    The ONLY way a mortal man can read the Bible with the key to comprehension is to open the door of your heart and soul by asking GOD to come into your life and turning over your will to HIS purpose for your existence. Clear your mind and meditate on the prayer Jesus taught us: The Our Father. You will find it in the Bible.
    Posted on January 16, 2009 at 5:52 pm by Anonymous
  • But the natural man receiveth not the things of th...
    But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
    Prevenient grace is the longing that Norm feels. It is a kind of inexplicable desire for something "other" worldly that nudges us to read books about the historical Jesus and other topics not normally of interest to us. We find ourselves really wondering if there is in fact "more to the life of this enigmatic preacher than I had realized. Is this a sign of something akin to belief, and if so, belief in what, exactly?" We are amazed at ourselves and we don't really care to open up with others. This is a unique, almost sacred time and place in our lives. "I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." Norm, can't you see it? " alive as I was when as a child I first read with wonder and hope about a man I have long since forsaken. What, I wonder, will help my unbelief?" Jesus is calling to you, by your name. From the depths of all eternity he is crying out to you, "Norm, my child, my beloved son, come to me." He wants you to return to your childhood understanding and simple appreciation for HIM. He will forgive you if you have forsaken him. He wants you to believe that HE loves you. He misses you and remembers well the little boy enthralled with Him. Jesus, help Norm to open his heart a little bit more.
    Posted on April 25, 2009 at 9:04 pm by Anonymous
  • So much in life is not understood, because we are ...
    So much in life is not understood, because we are mere mortals in a vast universe.
    One thing about Jesus, he was condemned to die, when he got cross wise with the corrupt powers of the times, and kicked the money changers out of the temple. But, so much written about Jesus was some time after the facts, that were behind the events.
    Jesus did not exactly have legal representation, he was rail-roaded so to speak about 1700 years before they were rail-roads.
    You piece on the Wisc matter shows you have great wisdom, so rare in today's world.
    I am not going to preach to you about what you should do, or about who you God is, or is not, or what you should believe (in).
    Your inquiring mind, and independence will show you the path at this stage of events, most like;y as matters unfold.
    I grew up Catholic, was taught by the Nuns, became so smart I lost all belief in all religion, then I found out how infallable is the nature of man. I too question, and,
    in that twilight zone.
    However, I once at my daughters confirmation asked the Deacon, what was Jesus charged with why was he executed.
    I got some answer, but it did not sound like it was grounded in what went on.
    Now, it is in vogue to brand people who have religion as simpltons, anti science, etc.
    Like I say the longer i have lived the more I have seen on the weakness of man(generic), and
    so, I too wonder.
    I will keep on wondering.
    thank you for having the courage to share you views on the WWW.
    Envy, greed, jealous, vanity, etc etc, etc, every (human) person has walked that path, but may not have even been fully aware of, when so engaged.
    That includes me.
    Posted on October 17, 2009 at 5:41 pm by Anonymous

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