A Part of or a Parting of? (#worship)

[Listen to post here.]

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There is an ancient Christian classic in the mystic tradition called The Cloud of Unknowing.  The understanding behind its title is that there exists between our soul and God a dense, all-but-impenetrable barrier to the true knowing of God as He actually is.  The author calls this a “cloud of unknowing” and instructs his readers that it cannot be pierced by the faculties of the mind but only by the volition and affections of the heart.

I was in a corporate worship setting several months ago when the Lord began to speak to my heart about this “cloud of unknowing” as it relates to our personal and collective worship.  What became evident to me was that so much of what we consider to be worshiping in “truth” is merely a suggesting or a seeing of “shapes” in “the cloud of unknowing” while thinking we are encountering the true reality of God in them.

Think for a moment about the childhood pastime of looking up at the clouds and envisioning from their shapes what objects they suggest.  None of us would ever believe that what we saw in the clouds was the actual object, but rather it was only a fleeting imagination and representation.

When it comes to spiritual realities, our natural mind does not have the ability to perceive that which is spiritual in nature.  1 Corinthians 2:14 states clearly, But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (NKJV)  Or as the Message paraphrase puts it: The unspiritual self, just as it is by nature, can’t receive the gifts of God’s Spirit.  There’s no capacity for them.  They seem like so much silliness.  Spirit can be known only by spirit – God’s Spirit and our spirits in open communion.” 

Even when the mind is focused on Scriptural/spiritual truths, at best it can only apprehend the outward appearance and mental representation of spiritual realities.  In other words, it can only form and see “spiritual shapes” in “the cloud of unknowing” and not pierce through to the actual realities that lie beyond what those “shapes” suggest and represent.

That is not to say that the mind has no place in spiritual matters; it certainly does, but it must know its place.  The mind is like a hiking guide that is only authorized and able to lead a mountain climber up to a base camp that lies below the clouds.  From there, the climber must rely on the more experienced and constitutionally fit “sherpas” to take him up through the dense clouds to the heights above where the light is gloriously shining.  Those “sherpas” that guide our heart and spirit up into the light of God’s presence are Faith, Hope, and Love.

In our spiritual ascent, as the “cloud” grows dense and the “shapes” that first drew us onward begin to disappear in the mists, Faith keeps whispering in our heart of the glorious vistas that will be seen from above and continually assures us that we will make it to those higher realms if we press on in implicit trust.

As the way grows steeper, the air grows thinner, and the darkness presses in, Hope encourages our flagging spirit not to give up, but to patiently persevere until the clouds begin to part, the light from above breaks through, and the lofty wonders begin to appear in radiant splendor.

All the while Love is leading the way, undaunted and undeterred, ever pressing onward and upward in singleness of purpose, intention, and desire.  This, the greatest of all “sherpas”, never falters and never fails.

It is the singleness of Love’s desire, strengthened by Faith and Hope, that enables us to do our part in pressing into and piercing through “the cloud” unto a true knowing of God “in spirit and truth.”  As He sees us seeking Him with all of our heart, He in turn does His part by imparting a “spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of Him” (Eph.1:17 DBY), thus parting the “cloud of unknowing” with rays of revelation from above.

God is earnestly searching for those who will not settle for mere “shapes in the clouds” in their knowledge of Him but are desperate to press in and know Him experientially and intimately through an ever-increasing revelation and impartation of His Spirit.  Let us search our hearts to see if our knowledge of Him is merely a part of “the cloud of unknowing” or does it come from a parting of “the cloud of unknowing!” 

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Oh, that we might know the LORD !
Let us press on to know him.
He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn
or the coming of rains in early spring.”
Hosea 6:3 NLT

Previous in collection (#worship):
What Is the Father Seeking? (#worship)
Neither Here Nor There (#worship)
…In Spirit (#worship)
…In Truth (#worship)
Get Real (#worship)

About David

Following Him who is the Way; learning of Him who is the Truth; living by Him who is the Life. - John 14:6
This entry was posted in "Shorts", Spiritual Dynamics, The Inner Life and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to A Part of or a Parting of? (#worship)

  1. errollmulder says:

    I love the mountaineering, guide and sherpa imagery, David, it really helps one get a grasp of pressing on and pressing upward in the ‘spiritual realm,’ through the indwelling Christ/Spirit. Reminds me of my youth, when Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Norgay Tenzing made it to the top of Mt. Everest for the very first time, TOGETHER! The Church desperately needs to produce more sherpas, methinks. Then we’ll make and shape history, under God.


    • David Bolton says:

      Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Erroll. I’ve mused in the past on the need for a kind of spiritual leadership that embodies and fulfills the role of a sherpa. Here we go, tracking again! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. errollmulder says:

    I also appreciated tying the sherpas to faith, hope and the greatest of all, love. Agape love.


  3. Tobie says:

    Thank you, David. So true. A friend and I have been discussing this book, and I recently gave it to another dear brother in India to read. Sadly, he passed away from Covid – I believe while he was still reading it. What a glorious preparation for entering into the presence of our Lord!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. godelshaddai says:

    WOW! No words to respond………..



  5. Lloyd says:

    David, I’ve always told my 4 children, intellect and brilliance can greatly interfere with ones relationship to God the Father, and to the spiritual advancement of our soul and spirit. It is when we come to God as a non-omniscient, humble, and broken person, that God does his mightiest work!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Allan Halton says:

    Thank God for His sherpas, David! Faith, Hope, Love… Amen. Here’s another; in fact here is the Chief of all the sherpas– the Spirit of truth. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth…” (Jn 16:13 ASV).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Rose Strydom says:

    Hi David !
    I love this book …. I came across it last year after reading one of your posts .
    The possibilities we have to see and know God in increasing measure are overwhelming for me at times.
    A.W. Tozer in his chapter “ Gaze of the soul” from the Pursuit of God says “ when we lift our eyes to gaze upon God, we are sure to see friendly eyes gazing back at us , for it is written that the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout all the earth.
    The sweet language of experience is ‘ Thou God seest me’
    When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on this earth “.
    WOW !
    Come Holy Spirit come , let Thy bright beams arise ,
    Dispell the darkness from our minds and open all our eyes !
    Love Rose

    Liked by 2 people

    • David Bolton says:

      Yes, and amen to that prayer and to that quote from bro. Tozer!!

      As I’ve sought to press in to know the Lord, I’ve found it helpful to know that any darkness from “the cloud” that exists only does so on my part towards Him, and not on His part towards me! He ever has a Psalm-139-type-knowledge-of/-nearness-to me so that what may appear as darkness to me is nothing but light to Him. If I begin by focusing on His knowledge of and nearness to me, rather than on my knowledge of and nearness to Him, “the cloud” seems to part more readily! That has been my experience at least, and I think that ties in to what bro. Tozer was saying as well.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!

      All blessings!!

      Liked by 1 person

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