But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.2 Corinthians 3:16
Paul, the First Century Hebrew of Hebrews, wrote the statement above. He knew what he was talking about. Before a personal encounter with the living, risen Jesus Christ, Paul was aggressively opposed to Jesus and his followers.
He experienced life with a veil over his eyes, but he didn’t know it. That is the nature of a veil: what’s behind it is hidden. You don’t know what you don’t know until the veil is removed. When the veil is removed, a person see what was once hidden from view.
For Paul, the veil was removed suddenly and in dramatic fashion. Complete with a flash of light, a voice from heaven and blindness that was removed when the truth of Paul’s encounter was revealed (Acts 9), Paul’s experience was a bit unusual.
These words, though, are a common description for many people, regardless of the drama, or lack thereof: when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. They resonate deeply with me.
The words, though, resonate deeply within me. The truth of Christ was veiled to me for many years. I became a searcher of truth, looking in all the suspect places, until “one day” the veil was removed when I turned to the Lord.
It wasn’t a sudden thing leading up to that point. It was a process. There were markers along the way that I followed, and some gates I went through. In the end, as it seemed the pointers were directing me toward Jesus, I turned to him; and, indeed, the veil was removed.
Looking back, we might say, I was blind, but now I see.” During the process, it doesn’t seem quite like that at all.
CS Lewis describes the road that led him to the point where the veil was lifted from his eyes in his autobiographical work, Surprised by Joy. The Beatles might have said the road was long and winding. For Lewis, the markers along that road traced back to his early childhood.
My journey is marked by similar signposts dating back even to some of my earliest memories. God, who knows us intimately, even better than we know ourselves, is ever there with us. I only recognized the influences looking back.
Still, even as we see the pointers and feel some compulsion that God might be there beyond the veil, He never overcomes our ability to shrink back, to walk away and refuse His “invitation”. God is a “perfect gentleman” in every way.
For CS Lewis, his veil falling away moment was the exact opposite of Paul. He was riding in a car or bus, looking out the window, and suddenly he realized he believed. There were no lights and no voice. No sudden happenings.
Preceding that very understated moment, Paul felt the subtle presence of the “hound of heaven” pressing in on him. As he explains it, the sense of the reality of God was something he could yield to or refuse. He had a sense in the moment that, if he refused it, he might never be offered the opportunity again.
He chose to respond. Begrudgingly. He described himself the most reluctant convert in all of England that evening. But that wasn’t the day that the veil was removed and really believed. That came some later later in that quiet ride, looking out the window.
Turning toward God is the same idea as repenting. Repenting means simply to change one’s mind or a change of heart. CS Lewis described how he had been keeping the sense of God at bay when he begrudgingly yielded to it.
This is what it means to take a step toward God. We may never know whether any substance lies beyond the veil unless we turn toward God. This isn’t so something that happens to us, but a choice that we make.
If you listen to the testimony of practically any person who became a Christian from being a non-Christian, there is a moment of conscious turning. This is (from my limited, anecdotal memory) universal. If not universal, than demonstrably prevalent.
It’s not a manufactured belief. Rather, we yield to it.
Believers resonate with the stories of other believers because of the near-universal experience of turning to God and finding substance where it once looked only like mystery veiled in a shroud.
If you challenge God to reveal Himself, and you mean it, He will. Sometimes, He even reveals Himself to people, like Paul, who aren’t looking for Him – at least they don’t know that God in Christ is what they are after.
Most people don’t have the dramatic experience that Paul had, but story after story of people who were once not believers, and now believe, track similarly. There is a commitment (at some point) to truth. Some “event” or experience points us toward Christ, and there is a turning and a response.
Thus, the words Paul spoke about turning to the Lord at which point the veil is removed are as poignant and relevant today as they were for Paul. The fact that people still experience God in Christ that way speaks to the authenticity of the experiences that people share and the way God interacts with people through history.
If you are curious about this “phenomenon”, you can listen to people yourself describe their stories of turning to Christ and the veil being removed at Journeys of Faith. I have categorized them into various groups, but you will find some amazing similarities and consistencies as you listen to all the uniquely personal stories.