One of my favorite Youtube channels is Off Camera with Sam Jones. He asks actors the questions I would want to ask if given the opportunity to sit and chat with any of these people. He is able to dig beyond tabloid fodder and grasp the humanity and experiences of the people he interviews.
A few years ago, I watched this interview with John Krasinski and thought he hit on a profound idea. At around the 2:14 mark, he says, “I don’t know how your brain accepts truths that are not acceptable unless you’ve had them dolled out to you along the way.” (Feel free to watch the whole 2:38 minutes if you’re interested in the grander context of the interview).
A few days ago, I was reading Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ by Eugene Peterson and he quoted a poem by Emily Dickenson titled “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.”
The poem is as follows (Emphasis mine):
“Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —”
I thought of Paul who was literally blinded by his interaction with Truth and Christ and a light from heaven. (Emphasis mine)
“Now Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” Acts 9:1A
“As he traveled and was nearing Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul said. “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting,” he replied. “But get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:3-6
“Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. He was unable to see for three days and did not eat or drink.” Acts 9: 8-9
How do our brains accept truths that are unacceptable?
How do we allow the truth to dazzle gradually?
What do we do if we are blinded by a sudden and life changing altercation with the truth?
At some point, accepting an unacceptable truth requires an accepting of error in previously accepted truths. Things we live by, rely on, or believe about the world that prove to be misleading, misunderstood, or flat out lies. Our naivete, lack of experience, or arrogant eagerness to make our way can blind us to truth. A slow seeing, or a slow stripping away of a different kind of blindness requires a confronting of error in one way or another.
In the video above, John Krasinski says this about “chasing box office success”:
“Now when I hear that, “this movie is going to be huge” “I’m like, really? because I have now seen enough examples of the biggest movie with the most perfect cast and the perfect director and the perfect producers didn’t even get seen. You know what I mean? So now that that conundrum has been broken for me, or that fact or that thing that people live by, now that that’s broken, this is all a lot more fun.”
He goes on to say that it was actually the experiences in the “less successful” movies with different actors (namely Robin Williams) that enabled him to accept different roles and his place in them. His experience and interaction with Robin Williams in License to Wed was worth more to him than “making his big break” from that particular movie.
We now live in a time when “truth” can be discovered by a few Google searches, an investigative report, or a documentary. We binge watch or click link after link, as if we cannot get enough.
“Look at this path that I am on!”
“I’m on an urgent mission to soak in as much as I can as quickly as I can.”
Quickly obtained truth can also lead to a different sort of blindness.
A self righteousness.
I do believe their is a direct correlation between the time it takes to obtain truth and the amount of arrogance (and honestly, ignorance) a person possesses.
I have to catch myself on this all of the time. Most non-fiction books I read include a line similar to “this book is a result of ten years of research, twenty years in ministry, etc.” I am reading, watching, or listening to a highly edited conclusion that took years to master, learn, and communicate. I am not walking away with an all knowing understanding of the truth presented to me. I am again blinded by my own arrogance, ignorance, and opinions. I’m not done reading this books, instead, I am viewing them as small, dazzling truths. “This author is providing another piece of the puzzle. A different perspective. An opinion/idea/truth to consider.”
As we do grapple with the sudden and hard truths we are unable to filter or slow down our exposure to such as injustice, racism, and maybe even a coming to or crisis of faith, what do we do?
When the truth does not dazzle gradually, but instead blinds us and brings us to our knees, what can be done?
Here, I think Paul provides another beautiful example. Yes, he was blinded by his interaction with Jesus, but he was not left to wander alone. “But get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” He’s given a purpose. “So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus.” He was given aid. You can read more in Acts to see all of the ways the Lord provided for him and helped him to learn and grow, perhaps with some “gradual dazzling truths.” (Later in Acts 9, it says that “Saul was with the disciples in Damascus for some time.” (v19B)
When there are calls to “JUST RECOGNIZE THE TRUTH.” What are we asking others to see?
I’m not as interested in providing a path, whether slow and dazzling or blinding, to many things these days. I don’t have a lot of truths I’m willing to cling onto that closely. I’m not so much growing in my staunchness of my convictions or opinions, but prefer to grow in being an avenue of truth to those who will accept it.
Where I can be an avenue for the slow, beautiful, dazzling truth of the gospel to be revealed, may it be so.
Where I can be a presence to those who are hit with a sudden, glorious, and blinding realization to the truth of the gospel, may it be so. May I be a gentle, leading presence.
May our churches be places of prayer, discipleship, and the awakening of truth- the kind that strikes awe, hope, and love into our homes, communities, and into the world. Where we are blind, may there be patience, love, and grace. Where we are repentant, may there be rejoicing, reconciliation, and growth. Where we are obedient, may there be wisdom, strength, and an in tune vision with the Lord above.
He dazzles. He strikes. In both, he is faithful. In either, his truth is always good. Whether walking along the road on a mission of destruction or calming a child in the midst of a lightning storm, truth meets us, finds us, and changes us.