For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ,
and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2)
In the summer of 1992, while on vacation, I treated my family to a tour of the USS Torsk in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. This shark-decaled submarine was a veteran of the Pacific Theater of World War II. I was amazed just how small it was and how narrow were the passageways that wound down through it. I tried to imagine what it would have been like to be sequestered a hundred fathoms down with no place to hide. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have survived given the tinge of claustrophobia that I inevitably feel in tight places above the ground. Those tinges were on high alert as we made our way through the sardine-shaped vessel.
But what I remember most about the tour was not the boat but our guide. He was a short man, five feet six at most, perhaps pushing 70 years old. He was actually quite nondescript in appearance, like a million other old timers. He knew the boat like the back of his hand. He made us feel the wartime conditions he had known on a submarine like this one. But what made him unforgettable to me was hearing the subtext of everything he told us. This man hated the Japanese. He made no attempt to be politically correct on the matter. As far as he was concerned, the Japanese had ruined his life. They had taken his best friends away. They had interrupted his youth and despoiled the best years of his life. They had forever loused up his plans. They had fated him to become the cynical and distrustful misanthrope he had become. This man saw everything and everyone through the lens of his ruinous World War II experience.
This memory makes me wonder if any of us really see the world as it is. We all have experienced events in our lives that shape how we see ourselves and others and the world around us. These experiences may feel like the cause of our disquiet. Or they may simply provide opportunities for us to discover what is already in us. I remember my mother trying to encourage me before a golf tournament when I was a kid. Her words of encouragement, however, were betrayed by the look in her eyes. That unsure look in her eyes revealed what was already in me, already determining me—my ongoing struggle with self-confidence. We do not see or experience things as they are, but we see and experience things through who we are.
What about the experience of Jesus Christ? Does our encounter with the risen Christ make any appreciable difference to how we see ourselves, our world, or our relations with others, including God? Does the living Christ have the power to meet us in the deep places that seem to have determined us toward hatred or lack of confidence and to re-determine us for freedom and love? Paul told the Corinthians that Christ has revealed the “deep things of God” to the church. The “deep things of God” speak to the “deep places” in us through the power of the Holy Spirit.
These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God … we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:10–12a, 16b).
Apparently, Paul believes that the Holy Spirit can reach down into the recesses of the human spirit to reveal and empower a way of being that is attuned to the one who created us and who longs for our alignment with all things good and redemptive. The Spirit can transform our hatreds and our lack of self-esteem by crucifying their authority over us, thereby liberating us to love as God loves. We are called to know, see, and feel all things through Christ crucified—the wisdom and power of God. This is the Easter possibility for all of us.