The Parable of the Stereogram


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The last thing fish would ever discover is water. Fish live, move, and have their being in water, but it is invisible to them. What is the last thing that human beings are likely to discover? It is that they are surrounded by and live in the Kingdom of God. Whatever surrounds us becomes ordinary and common place. Eventually, it is no longer recognized for what it is. We live in the extraordinary but do not know it. We live in the Kingdom but do not experience it.

The Kingdom of God is a quality of life. It is a way of living in the world. It has been described as the present participation in a future possibility. It is a paradox. The Kingdom is both present and coming.

All spiritual traditions try to awaken us from illusion to the reality in which we live. These traditions try to help us see the “unseen” which is the really real.

Jesus of Nazareth came preaching the Kingdom of God. He proclaimed the inauguration of the Kingdom of God and told us that it is like a mustard seed that grows, yeast which spreads, and a treasure hidden in a field. The Kingdom is not something easily observed. It exists both within us and among us. The Kingdom is a private reality that must be given expression in relationship with others. We must love God, love ourselves, and love our neighbor. Loving our neighbor even means to love our enemy. We are actually surrounded by this reality, which exists as a potential for us, but we must be awakened to it. It is a quality of living that is always available.

Jesus used parables to help us understand what the Kingdom is like. A modern parable is that the Kingdom of God is like a stereogram. A stereogram is a two-dimensional, computer-generated, graphic image that has another 3-D image embedded in it. On initial viewing the 3-D image is not seen. It is hidden. It is not obvious but is present. The image can be seen only when viewed from the proper perspective. The task is made difficult if you try too hard. You must use a special non-focused attention. You almost have to look beyond the present reality to see the hidden one. When the hidden image is discovered, the surprise is that it was there all the time. If you look away to tell a friend, when you look back it will be gone and must be found again. If you have the image in sight and try too hard to see it with increased clarity, it is often lost. However, only a glimpse is needed to know that it is real and can be found again. Once you have seen the image it is difficult to show it to other people. Only general instructions can be given. Others cannot find the image through your experience. They cannot look over your shoulder and see what you see. They can trust your testimony and search for themselves. You can point the way and invite them to see the Kingdom, but they must do it on their own.

Once you have experienced the Kingdom of God, even if it is only for a moment, then you know that it is a reality. We live in it, but our eyes have to be opened to it. Sometimes the beauty of nature opens our eyes. Sometimes it might be the love of or for another. Even the struggle with life crises of suffering and loss can make it visible. Once found it can be a source of strength that empowers us to love and accept ourselves and others. Through the hidden reality of the Kingdom of God we find that we are all bound together in the common experience of the human condition. We are surrounded by what we need, but only realize it when we can open ourselves to the extraordinary - the Holy- that is found in the ordinary moments of life.

So, the Kingdom of God is like a stereogram. Have you seen the Kingdom of God? Can you share it with others?

The Parable of the Stereogram. Copyright 1995 Dan Johnston,
All rights reserved.
Dagali Graphics P.O. Box 271 Macon, Georgia 31202 

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