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When Reality Comes Crashing In (published in The Tribune January 25, 2014)

posted Feb 4, 2014, 7:22 AM by Fccea Webmaster
When Reality Comes Crashing In

One comic reported, “My girlfriend likes to role-play. For the past five years, she's been playing my ex-girlfriend.” He’s lost touch with reality!

We all do, partly because we believe what we see.

A gold brick looks and feels solid. But, of course, it is made up of atoms which are almost entirely composed of empty space. If such an atom were enlarged a million billion times, its outer electron shell would be as big as greater Los Angeles; it’s nucleus the size of a compact car.

Danger lurks when we ignore reality. Professional mountain climber Royal Robbins says the one essential to the sport is the ability to see things as they really are. Complete honesty about the nature of the terrain and one’s abilities is imperative to safety. He says, “Climbing is an exercise in reality. He who sees it clearly is on safe ground. But he who sees reality as he would like it to be may have his illusions rudely stripped from his eyes when the ground comes up fast.”

British poet, Steve Turner, demurs:  “We believe that each man must find the truth that is right for him. Reality will adapt accordingly.” Sounds great. But can we actually live like that?

Eighteen years ago this month Morton Thiokol engineer Roger Boisjoly frantically urged the scrub of the launch of the space shuttle Challenger. He believed the freezing temperatures would cause the failure of the O-rings protecting the solid rocket booster. His warnings were ignored and we know the results. Reality did not adapt to the perceived truth of hundreds of people; it stayed true to the actual truth of one individual who had it right. Truth, it seems, is not relative.

Perhaps nowhere are we more reluctant to face reality than the idea of an afterlife. Perception suggests there isn’t one. But is perception reality?

Photographer Richard Avedon once said, “All photos are accurate. None of them is the truth.” Behind Marilyn Monroe was Norma Jean Mortenson. And behind physical perception is spiritual reality.

The Apostle Paul says it this way:  “as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (II Cor 4:18). And every fiber of our being screams, “Yes, there is more.”

So, are we are prepared for such a reality? When English essayist Charles Lamb was a toddler, his sister took him for a walk in a graveyard. The precocious young boy was reading all the laudatory epitaphs when he asked, “Mary, where are all the naughty people buried?”

Great question. If one only judged by attending funerals, one would conclude that everyone must be all right. But Jesus, who came to reveal what we could not otherwise know, taught differently. “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Mt 7:13-14).

This is why the core of Jesus’ message was repentance. That’s the qualification required to move from one road to the other. Jesus claimed that few find it. Might now be the time to look?

Walter Hooper, secretary to the great apologist C. S. Lewis, chuckled when he read this headstone inscription:  “Here lies an atheist, all dressed up with no place to go.” Lewis saw it differently.  He responded, “That atheist probably wishes now that that were true.”

The question is, will we face reality now, when we can do something about it, or, like NASA on January 28, 1986, will we wait until a destructive reality stares us in the face? God suggests, “Now is the day of salvation” (II Cor 6:2). Now, before reality comes crashing in.

Dave McNeff is pastor of the First Congregational Church of Eaton (