That Jan! We’ve made lots of memories. Of course, one of the perils of her condition is that she can’t remember a lot of the memories correctly…especially the most recent ones. I am not fond of what’s happening, but I look for meaning in our lives. Why are we here? Was it just coincidence that we met and married?
One of the memories (it’s actually a collage of memories) is how she has always seen God. He was never an abstract idea to her. Maybe to me he was at times, but to Jan God has always been a father. When she and I were first married, she would talk to him like he was her daddy.
I remember this one time, when we were having financial difficulties, she prayed, “God, you own the cattle on a thousand hills. Why can’t you fix this for us?”
At the time, it struck me as insolence. Imagine the audacity of calling God out. I moved over a few feet in case the lightening bolt was a little off.
Slowly over the years, however, I began to clearly see that the people God valued at a premium used similar language when addressing God. No one more so than David. Repeatedly, he would question the presence of God. Where are you? Why are you so distant? Why are you letting these people torment and persecute me? Only to answer his own question with an affirmation that God is not only sovereign but benevolent.
What confidence would a person have to have in the charity of God to address him that way? Is he a despot or a God whose mercy and grace and love are enough to handle the questions that an adoring daughter could pose about his concern for her?
While she was talking to ABBA this way, I was working furiously to answer questions about God. I wanted to know about election and predestination. I wanted to know about what was appropriate in church gatherings (the official ones). There were a lot of questions I sought answer to – about God. It never occurred to me at the time that there was a difference between pursuing God and pursuing knowledge about God.
I guess the best way to tell you what I mean is to use the word women in place of the word god.
Let’s say that I embarked on a study of women. I spend hours pouring over anatomy books so that I would know every single anatomical difference between men and women. And let’s say that I also read volumes on the female psyche. Then just imagine that I approached my wife and smugly said, “Of course I have a relationship with you. I know all of your parts. I know all about your emotional makeup. Yes, I know you. I know everything about women.”
What an insult that would be. In addition, if I were to do something like that, I might be missing a few body parts myself. Like the side of my face.
I don’t know about her…I know her. I have pursued her and courted her. She is my bride to be loved not and idea to be studied.
All of that stuff about God is fine to know. Study it all and see if you can figure it out.
Here’s the problem with that approach – God is too big for me. If I could understand him, he would not be God. If I could explain him, he would not be God. When I contemplate this…that he is unfathomable…it leads me to a different place in my theology (my study of God).
My pursuit of God should always leave me baffled. How can I understand that a being could be all-powerful? Or that he’s omnipresent? Or that he’s omniscient? How can a being like him know the future yet tell me that I can change his mind with my prayer?
What I’m finding is that the more I pursue him (as a personality instead of a concept), the more of him I desire. The more I know him, the more I want him. The closer I get to him, the closer I want to be.
I also find that I am less tolerant of the man who says he has him figured out…that he has made God manageable. He knows how God does his work. He can proof-text his theology. A man like that can be dangerous and divisive. I know because I’ve been that guy.
I posed this thought to a friend last week (a younger man that I respect a great deal), and he thinks that we can understand God’s mercy and grace and love. But I’m not even sure about that. In order to fully internalize that kind of love, I would have to fully comprehend how big and high God is while simultaneously understanding how low and disgusting I am. I try to imagine the depth and breadth of the gulf that is between God and me, but I just can’t understand infinity. And since I can’t understand infinity, I cannot grasp the idea of an infinite love. Not really. The best I can do is accept that fact that the infinity of God is too much for me. How can I grasp a being that has no beginning and no end. Everything I’ve ever experienced has a beginning and and end, but not him. And that baffles me – it compels me to stand in awe of him.
All of this is important to me because I’ve come to that place in my life where nothing in this world makes sense. I have no future hopes that I will amount to anything in this world. I won’t be rich or famous. I won’t pastor a mega church. I won’t write the quintessential novel. I will never have a statue erected in my honor for future generations of pigeons to dishonor.
This isn’t to say that I haven’t left my mark or that I am not leaving my mark (I’m not stopping yet). I still want to be relevant but only in the sense that I demonstrate my security in Christ by the way that I respond to the hard things in my life. I deeply desire a legacy that I will never really know about until eternity…you know, that day when others will approach me in heaven and say that they are there because a hundred years before they were born Jan and I shared the good news that Christ could redeem their great grandparent’s marriage. And since they stayed together and decided together to honor God in their relationship, future generations of believers emerged from their union that are still praising God.
But even in that case, all Jan and I would have done is plant and water. Even then, this God that I cannot understand gave the increase. He produced the fruit. And this baffles me even more…that he could work through broken and flawed people like Jan and me to produce kingdom fruit and continue to bear fruit from our labor generations into the future.
No, I haven’t wrapped my mind around God. As President Obama once said about a different matter, that is over my pay grade. In fact, I’ve given up on the idea. Instead of knowing about him, I just want to bask in the glory of God and let it be enough that his is God and I am not. If I seek any understanding of God at all, I just want to more fully understand the chasm that exits between me and him because then I will begin to more fully understand the profound sacrifice he made to redeem me from my own rebellion against him.
And when I pursue that understanding (Which will be a life-long pursuit), I will forsake any theology that elevates my intellect over others’. I will not draw others to me and my teaching other than to point them to the Father who cannot be understood my humankind. The best we can do, to paraphrase Tozer, is to bow before him and say to him, “Thou knowest. You are God and you know what you are doing and how you will do it. I am not God, and I don’t have a clue about how you accomplish your purposes.”
I can tolerate anything life throws my way (including Jan’s Alzheimer’s and my own mortality) if this God I love is doing things his way). I don’t have to understand it – I just have to accept that he is who he claims to be. I can do no better than to fall before his throne and before the Cross of Christ and admit my own frailty in the presence of a God too big to understand.
Father, I admit that I am too feeble to comprehend you fully. I repent that I have sought to know facts about you – to put together a theological system that would explain you…how you work. I beg you to lead me to a place where I seek you – you as a being – as a person. Please lead me to a place where you are enough – where my confidence is in the God who cannot be understood is so great that my peace truly does pass all understanding