The Rev. Dr. Han van den Blink
St. Paul’s Church, Troy
Your word is a lantern to my feet
and a light upon my path.
Only more recently have I come to see that my being pulled inwardly between belief in a transcendent God and a more sacramental understanding of the Holy may be related to internalizing, when I was a boy, the Dutch Presbyterian views of my parents, and the animism of the Javanese people who were important to me. The ways in which these two different views of reality are articulated do not mesh easily.
When dealing with matters of faith and religious experience, the use of language becomes immeasurably more difficult. Experiences of the Numinous, of the Holy, of God, are always prior to language and cognition and can never completely be captured in words. Words are always epiphenomenal, and descriptions and definitions of our religious experiences are unavoidably attempts to come close to what can never be completely or adequately expressed in language.
Our best and most successful efforts to capture our experiences of God in language are therefore only approximations. The failure to see this is a common error, especially in a culture like ours which prizes the ability of the rational mind to explain and clarify almost everything.
All priests and deacons, for example, are called upon at times to help people who are troubled, hurting, abused or oppressed. Our ministry in such a situation has to do, on the most basic level, with forgiveness and renewal, with healing and making whole, and with discovering the possibility and presence of grace in their lives.
It is not so much that we verbally bring the good news of forgiveness, renewal and hope to whomever we are trying to help, but rather that we discover the power of God working in the very process of our attempts to minister, even though we ourselves are wounded healers.