Deep Calls To Deep

I don’t think my mind is big enough, broad or bright enough, to be an effective apologist for the Christian faith. I turn often to the great apologists of the centuries, to Augustine, for example, to the best of C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, most recently to N. T. Wright, Tim Keller, and so many others. Up against the winds of severe skepticism, we want to defend our faith. We want to make sense of what we believe. We want to say what we believe in our age of unbelief.

But as I reflect, I realize my mind is always scurrying to catch up to the heart. It all starts with the heart, not with emotion so much, but with the deeper parts of who I am. In Psalm 42, for example, we find the mind trailing after the heart:

As a [deer] longs for the running streams,
so I long for you, my God.
I thirst for God, the living God;
when shall I come to appear in his presence?

It is that longing, that thirsting, that yearning that leads the way. It is that hoped-for taste of the living water that drives us to the running streams. We want to drink wholeheartedly. That’s where faith begins. Maybe we’ll figure it out later.

“All day long people ask me, ‘Where is your God’?” We know these attacks, this skepticism. Rampant skepticism drives us nuts. We want an answer, but the Psalmist doesn’t turn first to argument. Rather this Psalm insists, “I shall wait for God,” and

. . . I shall remember you
from the springs of Jordan and from the Hermons,
and from the hill of Mizar.
Deep calls to deep in the roar of your cataracts,
and all your waves, all your breakers, sweep over me.

“Deep calls to deep”! That matches my experience. There is ample distress in this poem, listening to the skepticism, searching for God, feeling the absence. But then “I shall remember” that deep calls to the depths of who I am. There is no claim here that I know how to be “deep,” but rather, at some point along the way, the deep called to my inner depth, called out from the roar of waterfalls, the breakers on the shore—they all “sweep over me.”

There’s no pinpointing how or when or where the deep will call. It may be in those breakers shining beneath a sunset. It may be in the eyes of someone we love. It may be, as it often is for me, in something that leaps off the page I am reading. When it happens, though, we know the deep has called to something deep within us. And that deep, the Psalmist reminds us, tells of God’s unfailing love. It is then that praise rises to my lips.

All of this before I start thinking. All of this before I start trying to give my defense. I have lived my life in the life of the mind, trying to find the reasons for this deep that has called into my deep. I have read and read and listened and listened to the most articulate voices of the ages. I have added layer on layer of reason, much of it so very helpful, none of it I will ever discard. But looking back, this was so often my mind trying to figure out what happened in the deepest of the heart.

“Pope Benedict,” Rod Dreher points out, “said that the greatest witness for the church is not its apologetics but the art it produces and its saints – the beautiful things that come out of its culture that reflect Christ and cause people to say, ‘God is in that.’” While I love the apologists and will continue to follow them intensely, I agree that the beautiful things that come out of this encounter with the living God, that is what will make the most sense to our post-rational world. Yes, we need to bear witness that we have been to the deep, and we have discovered

By day the Lord grants his unfailing love;
at night his praise is upon my lips,
a prayer to the God of my life.

From out of the deep, we come with praise on our lips, we come with God’s unfailing love—eager to share it all around.