I can’t honestly say exactly when this whole “theology” (theos in Greek = God; ology = study of something) quest began, but here I am.
That’s a tricky little bugger in the Old Testament. It was also a tricky little bugger this morning as I was drinking coffee with my proverbial better half. We believe in the same God, but man do we believe in him differently.
Our differences are not in deal-breaking, salvific ways, but in general relational ways. For example, I tend to always refer to God as “Him” while Ryan, and I quote-ish: doesn’t want to “pigeon-hole God into the bearded old dude sitting on a throne somewhere in ‘heaven’ since it’s way more than that.”
We have this conversation frequently. It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with him. He has this incredible vision and artistic brain while I am all like, “Yeah…but it says right here in Leviticus…”
But that is what makes “us” a “we” and what allows our relationship to work, just like it allows each of our relationships with God to work. Albeit very differently.
And I’m finding that the more I talk to and share with people about this exact topic – WHO is God? WHAT is God? WHERE is God? – the more I realize just how much we all struggle to understand.
Most of the time, it’s already uncomfortable enough talking about God – because what will people think?!
What? YOU are a Jesus-freak now? I saw you drink wine last week – YOU can’t talk about God!
What? YOU are all God all the time now? I know what you did when you were fifteen – YOU can’t talk about God!
What? YOU aren’t afraid to talk about God now? I thought we were in this whole professional façade/avoidance/cover up wounds
with continual meaningless behaviors world together – how am I supposed to be ok with ME now? Fake. Traitor.
So if we struggle to even talk about God, how in the world are we supposed to talk to God, let alone even start to know who God is?
All good questions. No one single answer.
Here’s what I will offer. It is a relationship. And do we each do relationships the same?
Ahahahahahahahahahahah!!! No. Don’t even get me started. You guys know I have stories.
But I think that’s the deal. We are the ones who are different. God is not. He just is.
Think about it. Do we treat our kids the same? Do we treat our friends, teachers, parents, or even the people who take our orders at Starbucks/Mc’Ds/wherever we frequent the same?
No. We don’t. Because they are all different. And so are our relationships with them.
So if this is the case, and God knows it’s the case, then why would we for one second think that our individual relationships with him have to be the same? Why does “religion” have to be the same? Ick. Not easy.
My longtime buddy, Phil (husband of my great friend, Tammy) shared something with Ryan and me yesterday as we all lunched together on the campus of ND after the commencement ceremony at Bethel (lots of religion scrunched all up in THAT ‘lil neck of the Indiana woods…). He and Tammy were asking us how things are going in Grand Rapids, are we settled, how are the kids, work, etc. – you know, catching up on life together, which led us into a conversation about how much Ryan and I have been struggling to find a church home here. I asked them if they could imagine leaving their Lutheran church of which, they’ve been members for about twenty-five years.
Correction. Phil isn’t a member. He just goes.
His beef went something like this: “I asked the Pastor a long time ago why there are like eight Lutheran churches in a six-square mile radius. And when he couldn’t answer me except for the understood that people within the same denomination couldn’t get along, I saw no reason in ‘joining’ that. That’s not Jesus.”
I think we sometimes spend so much time trying to figure out exactly who Jesus is, what He has (or has not) done and why we should believe in a God in the first place, that we forget to even try. We forget to even put forth any semblance of relational effort with this being who just is.
Can you imagine: someone spends all kinds of time and effort on creating an on-line dating profile. They then spend all kinds of subsequent time thinking, hoping and praying the effort will come to a justifying and satisfyingly perfect culmination in the form of a lifetime partner…and then they never go on the date?
After said person’s friends got done making fun of them for their on-line handle, HitMeUpToday, or whatever, they would presumably and most certainly offer pearls of wisdom along the lines of, “How are you ever gonna be in a relationship if you don’t hang out with anybody?”
How are we ever gonna be in a relationship with God if we don’t hang out with Jesus?
There’s one way to start talking to him/her/it/the divine/the essence/pick your preferred pronoun:
Through Jesus. (John 14:6).
That’s not freaky, that’s just how it is.
It just is.
postscript. I get it. Defining God is not easy to do. We can offer definitions, but these definitions usually describe attributes. We can say that God is a bunch of stuff: omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenevolent, holy, perfect, etc. etc. While we can grasp and understand these concepts, it doesn’t mean that we are accurately describing the essence of what God is. But this is to be expected, as God is completely and utterly different from what we are. He is “wholly other.” This means he is not physical like we are. He is not limited to space and time as we are. He’s different–not the same as us. So, when we describe him, we can only describe him in ways with which we are familiar even if these descriptions can never be totally sufficient.
Personifying God does not do God justice. All it does is concoct some image in our heads of an old dude sitting on a throne somewhere.
This is something I have been personally wrestling with for the last couple years. Do you have any idea how hard it is to undo an image like that in my black and white (former Catholic) head?! Crazy. I honestly used to think there was like a line (sure, make fun of me and yes, I did think St. Peter was the ticket-taker…whatever) and all through my teenage years I would practice my entrance speech. Well, more like my “acceptance” speech because I was relatively sure I was going to have to beg/plead/use my sales skills to get in there after all the stunts I pulled.
My point is this: I may give my God-loving artistic husband a hard time “Wait…is God like, in our kitchen table?” [I will discuss pantheism some other post – he is not a pantheist], but I absolutely admire how he relates to God and I will forever be grateful to him for opening my eyes to a world of color.
God defined himself in Exodus 3:14: “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you (Moses) are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.”
God just is.
And we just are.
If is and are come together in relationship…imagine the possibilities.