Without a doubt, my most intimate and enlivening experiences of God have come through moments of co-illumination—times where God’s Word in the Bible and his Word in creation have come together and shone a little light on one another.
A couple of years ago I was listening to an epigenetics researcher describe the nature of his work: how science is now proving that parental behaviors—both positive and negative—are, to some degree, passed on to their children, and even to their children’s children. As he spoke, the words of the second commandment began running through my head, “. . . punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me . . . but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me . . .”
Hearing those two words—epigenetic and biblical—together, I realized for the first time that God really wasn’t being capricious when he issued a commandment that speaks of punishing kids for their parents’ sins. Instead, he was graciously warning us, “The implications of your choices are not just temporal, they’re generational! You physically pass on behavioral propensities.” In that co-illuminating moment I sensed that God’s timeless Spirit was in the room speaking to us directly, even as he whispered to Moses and inscribed our DNA.
Earlier this year I was interviewing a judge in his chambers for a sermon on his vocation. As he spoke of his preference for giving verbal judgments—so that he could look into the eyes of those he was judging, see their humanity, and sometimes even modify his judgment—all I could think about was the Incarnation and how God always looks at us when he judges. That judge’s modus operandi brought to mind times in the Scriptures where God relented or even seemed to change his mind. Even as this Calgary judge is willing to risk verbal engagement and eye contact, so too is God! As we spoke about these things it was as though, for that moment, every square inch of that judge’s chambers belonged to God.
And these co-illuminating moments just keep on coming. Songs of sorrow from a band called The National weeping alongside words from the book of Lamentations. The pedagogical passions of an educator powerfully illumining Jesus’ teaching heart. The ever-unique nature of tree branches suggesting that there are many diverse ways to abide in the vine that is Christ. A mechanic’s hands-on desire and aptitude to make all things new imaging a Savior who is making all things new!
God really does speak through two books. He speaks through the Bible and through science, history, math, music, vocation, nature, and all things. And I am convinced that, through his Spirit, God has always meant for us to know him in these kinds of co-illuminating ways.
I can’t think of a more beautiful way to live a life of faith than to experience Jesus everywhere.