Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands.
Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.”
So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.
[Acts 12:7-9 NKJV]
Walking through the Calgary woods on Mull a couple of weeks ago, I was startled by the strange vision in the photograph above. These woods are home to a continuing art exhibition and new pieces are often found in unexpected locations throughout the woodland. On this occasion, in the evening half-light, the face staring from the roots of a fallen tree was rather un-nerving. It was unexpected, certainly, and my reaction was “Was that real, or did I imagine it?”
In a sense, my reaction was the same as Peter’s on encountering the angel. I thought this was a vision, albeit anything but an angelic one, and my mind was tricking me! My experience reminded me of the lesson I learned several years ago. There is much in the world that is actual, but lacks ‘the real’; but much actuality which seeks to disguise what is real. The dictionary definition of 'actual' and 'real' are similar, but it ignores the spiritual dimension. Let me explain.
Put as simply as possible, we inhabit the actual world - defining ‘actual’ as ‘existing in fact’ - in what we call ‘the real world’, with 'real' defined as 'actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed'. But when we are born again from above, we begin to perceive things differently. The things of earth become strangely dim, as Jesus Christ changes our perception, so that we see through His eyes; opening our understanding to the Heavenly viewpoint. In our reading from Acts, 'real' means true; loving and speaking the truth.
Thus, my initial fright at seeing this apparition on the tree root, was revealed to me as the spirit behind the created work. I was given understanding of that hidden reality. In fact, the angel was real, can be restated as the messenger from God was true; hidden in the beginning.
Jesus Is Real To Me -- The Bolton Brothers
The bedrock permanent thing in Christianity is forgiveness not sanctification and personal holiness; the great abiding thing underneath is infinitely more rugged than that, it is all that the New Testament means by that terrific word “forgiveness.”