For the Apostle Paul, the power of God looks like Jesus’ resurrection. (Romans 1:4) It also looks like Jesus dying on the cross. (1st Corinthians 1:18) For the power of God to appear in such seemingly polarized actions as death and resurrection makes me believe it appears also in such actions as kneeling and thinking—in fact, praying and pondering at the same time.
In 1939, a young scholar named Harold Berman was studying history in Europe. As he, a self-described “lukewarm believer in Judaism,” travelled through Germany, Hitler announced the invasion of Poland and therefore the beginning of the Second World War. With reason, Berman feared the total destruction of civilization, and he sank into total despair. And then, as he rode on a train toward France, Jesus appeared to Berman in a vision. He testifies:
“His face reminded of one of the Russian icons that I would later see—heavily scarred and tragic—not suffering but bearing the marks of having suffered. I suddenly realized I was not entitled to such despair; that it was not I but another, God himself, who bore the burden of human destiny, and that it was rather for me to believe in him even though human history was at an end.” (From Finding God at Harvard, edited by Kelly Monroe Kullberg)
When Berman’s train arrived in Paris, he went to the cathedral of Notre Dame and “prayed a personal prayer to God for the first time in my life.” After the war (during which he was awarded a bronze star), he taught at Harvard Law School for 37 years and did ground-breaking scholarship regarding law and faith. Upon being required to retire, he taught another 22 years at Emory Law School, where he partnered with a former student, John Witte, Jr.—the son of Christian Reformed immigrants in Ontario and a classmate of mine at Calvin.
While visiting Berman on his death bed, Witte witnessed him falling asleep with a big smile on his face, while reaching up toward heaven. In his final days, Berman had repeatedly reached toward heaven, seeking to open the scrolls and books he saw there. He then awoke briefly and announced it was time for him to go. Having been raised dramatically to a new life by a vision of Jesus, he had walked steadily by the Spirit for sixty more years, loving the Lord with his whole heart and mind together.
In describing the role of the mind in his own faith, Paul says he believes so “that I may know [Christ] and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11) To share such believing knowledge and power with Paul, we too can both rise dramatically and walk steadily, both pray and ponder at the same time. We can love God with our whole hearts and minds together because with that way of thinking, we open ourselves to the power of God gleaming through broken vessels; (2nd Corinthians 4:7) we can experience the Lord’s power made perfect in weakness. (2nd Corinthians 12:9) We can have power “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” (Ephesians 3:19)