Here’s a fascinating story of how ‘knowing’ in biblical terms involves far more than just rational comprehension. ‘Knowing God’ involves head, heart and hands.Too often we have fallen captive to a western individualist and rationalist mindset in terms of how we conceptualise ‘knowing’ God.
It is summarised from a book called Christianity Rediscovered by the Catholic missionary Vincent Donovan who ministered among the Masai in Kenya & Tanzania from 1955-1973 and is about a discussion he has with a Masai elder on the meaning of ‘faith’.
In their conversation, the Masai elder pointed out that the word Donovan had been using in Swahili to convey the word “faith” was not a very good word in their language since it meant literally “to agree to.” The Masai elder said that to believe like that was similar to a white hunter shooting an animal from a great distance. Only his eyes and his finger were involved. The Masai elder then said that for one to really believe is more like a lion going after its prey. The lion’s nose and ears sense the prey. He sniffs the air and locates it. Then he crouches, and slithers along the ground virtually invisible. The lion gets into position, and when everything is optimum, the lion pounces. All the power of his body is involved and as the animal goes down, the lion envelopes it in his arms, pulls it to himself, and makes it a part of himself. This, said the elder, is the way one believes, making faith a part of oneself! Donovan nodded in complete agreement, almost overcome with the elder’s wisdom. But the elder was not done yet. The old Masai became thoughtful. Then he said to Donovan: “We did not search you out, Padri. We did not even want you to come to us. You searched us out. You told us of the High God. You told us we must search for the High God. But we have not done this. Instead, the High God has searched us out and found us! All the time we think we are the lion. In the end, the lion is God.”