In Search of Transcendence

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him, be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph 3:14-21)

For many, transcendence is a word that belongs to the realm of imagination. When we think about transcendence, we think about gods, mythology, light in the sky, a world beyond our world. Transcendence is for the theologians and the philosophers, not for engineers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, etc. In other words, it is for the dreamers, not for those who are “truly” trying to make the world a better place.

But here is my point: we are all in search of transcendence whether we believe in a god or not.

We are in search of transcendence when we look forward for the next high (whether it is drugs, sex, sky diving, fishing, shopping deal, worship experience, etc.). We are in search of transcendence when we work to leave a legacy to the future generations. We are in search of transcendence when we desire our lives to be meaningful. That is why it is so dissatisfying to hear someone tell us that we can make up our own purpose. We know it is lying to ourselves to escape the hopelessness of a world without transcendence.

No transcendence means no purpose. no meaning. no love. only despair and nothingness.

“It’s not true!” you may think. But don’t we crave for something greater than “this?” We want more. Always. A friend of mine who was finishing his PhD in radiation oncology (the title is already puzzling) and on his way to Harvard as postdoc told me he envied me because I “achieved” so much: I had a spouse!… while I was thinking the opposite. He achieved so much through his academical work.

We want more, don’t we? Even when some of us think “I am happy now,” we want it to last. We want more of that longer. So what can satisfy our thirst? In this post, I do not intend to defend how Christianity is the solution (Possibly in a future post). I am taking the position that Jesus is the solution.

What inspired me to write this post is the fact that I feel “dry” and “cold” toward Jesus. I have my own disappointments with God and especially with “church.” I do not know how to recover from past trauma fully. I do not know how to rebuild faith again. I do not know if I can find hope. I do not know if I want to risk to love again. Where to find God?

As I started to listen to an audiobook, I realized what I was doing: searching for transcendence. I was hoping to find God, not information. Isn’t it what we do as Christians? Some may read the Bible, books, articles, etc. to grasp a bit more of God’s beauty. Some go for a hike to delight in God through His creation. Some feel an emotional connection with God through singing songs. Others relate to God through performing rituals such as taking communion. etc. Though there is a diversity of personalities, we all seek to get in touch with this transcendent God. Why? Because He alone is able to satisfy the emptiness of our hearts.

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father […] that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (Eph 3:14-16)

During a mission trip in Haiti, I had this desire to see God’s transcending glory. I was craving for more. I opened my Bible with skepticism: “I have already read this book. I am not sure if I can see God’s beauty [or transcendence] in it.” But a burst of eagerness came out of my heart: “I want to see your glory! I am in need of seeing greater than what I can make up on my own.” And I was surprised by Eph 3:14-21. It went beyond my expectations.

“That you […] may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:17–19)

This passage is overwhelming. When I think about searching for transcendence, I think about this passage. Its title could be “How glorious is the love of God!” The apostle Paul cannot express with words how overwhelming Christ’s love for us is! It goes beyond the dimensions of our understanding. It transcends us. The love of Christ once grounded in our hearts by faith fills us up with the fullness of God. I have in mind this image of a cup overflowing with water. There is so much we can contain. God’s love is like an ocean that is poured in our tiny cups.

Christ demonstrated his love for us through the cross where he reconciled us with God. And that’s where we find transcendence: Christ. Let us dwell on this truth: Christ is ultimately what we seek. His love surpasses our knowledge in that we cannot comprehend truly what it means for God to come as man to die the most despicable death to save creatures He owes nothing. In Christ, the transcendent has been made available to us.

Any other way to find transcendence is idolatry. Our job’s purpose is to love and serve others, and not to find significance. Our legacy is to be an example of God’s love for us, and not to make a name for ourselves. Our “highs” are only to give us hope that a permanent state of “being high” awaits for us in God’s presence, and they are not meant to be an end in themselves.

We want more. We want Christ. Because Christ is more.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph 3:20-21)

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