That’s the first word I write down. I am surprised and not surprised when I see it flow out of my pen. This is why I’ve waited so long, anyway. Because I knew I wasn’t going to like what I found.
I read in a quick stolen moment this blogpost. I’d never heard of this woman before, but her words seemed familiar; in writing her story, she’d unknowingly written echoes of my own. She wrote of when she was young and how she strived for perfection, reaching exhaustively for righteousness. She wrote of the moment she realized that God doesn’t bless work like this, that He isn’t a “balancing-act” God.
And then she sat down and wrote out all the things she believed about God. Not what she was “supposed” to believe. Not what she’d been told to believe.
What she actually believed in her core.
As soon as I read this, I groaned a little inside. I knew it was coming. Things hadn’t been quite right.
I kept reading, trying to ignore it. I didn’t want to put pen to paper and face the facts.
I still don’t know who God is.
“I see it as a time for intentional and careful reflection.” That’s what I wrote about Lent almost two weeks ago. And I meant it. I still do mean it. But now I’m staring down the fact that “intentional and careful reflection” means being willing to engage with what you find there. What I found in writing that list is that I have a lot to learn.
Am I saying that God isn’t scary? No. He most definitely is scary. He is the Creator of the Universe, after all, and power like that isn’t something you mess with. What I am saying, though, is that most of the words I used to describe the God I claim to follow are negative. Fearful. Unsure. I didn’t know how to interact with this, because there’s often a huge difference between what you KNOW to be true (God is good) and what you BELIEVE and act on (God is scarier than He is good).
[powerful. sovereign. tricky.]
Do I really think God is tricky? No. But I act like I do. I often live my life as though he were the infinite trickster, just waiting to pull one over on me. Ha! You thought I would protect you! I’ve got you right where I want you.
That isn’t God talking. That’s the part of me that still hasn’t fully grasped what it means to surrender. To give it all to Him and admit that I am finite and broken and that I don’t have all the answers.
I wasn’t sure what to do about this list, with all its biggness and negativity, and only a few beautiful qualities strewn in.
[merciful. loving (but not always in the ways I would think). protective.]
So I decided to remind myself of who God says He is.
I made another list with better words, straight from the Word of the Lord.
Lover of your soul.
~ ~ ~
Apparently, reflecting is not always fun. What is in the depths of my soul? Who am I really? And how do I answer these questions without answering: Who is God?
I explain grammatical concepts to my students every day. That’s an infinitive – it has no number or person. It’s like the most neutral form of the verb. I explain things over and over, and they seem to understand. When I ask them, “What’s an infinitive?”, they can spit out the answer. But do they understand? Could they use one in a sentence? Could they explain what is happening? Not always.
There’s a huge gap between knowing what is right and understanding. I may be able to spit out that list of words from the Bible about who God is, but that doesn’t mean I understand them. It certainly doesn’t mean my view of myself or my view of God has changed fully. How do I change the words in my head and the feelings in my soul? I am constantly in a state of flux – growth is painful. I can feel the pains of embarrassment, anger at being reprimanded, and my human desire to just live my life and have fun. Because who doesn’t want to have fun?
There’s a hope in growing, too. It means we aren’t stagnant. If we’re constantly growing, it means we haven’t yet arrived.
8 Replies to “An Honest Look at God”
i agree a lot
Thanks, Rusty. I love you.
this is so great. i am there too…I wonder if we all are in one way or another. thanks for sharing.
I was trying to explain it to my Mom – it’s not like I am ALWAYS there, you know? It fluctuates all the time. But just because I don’t always feel this way doesn’t mean it isn’t still true.
It’s remembering that Truth is bigger, no matter what.
A.W. Tozer talks about this very thing in his little book The Knowledge of the Holy. Apologies for the long quote:
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about
us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its
religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever
been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains
high or low thoughts of God….Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, “What comes into your mind when you think about God?” we might predict with certainty the
spiritual future of that man. Were we able to know exactly what our most influential religious leaders think of God today, we might be able with some precision to foretell where the Church will stand tomorrow.” And a bit later…
“A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical
Christian living as well. It is to worship what the foundation is to the temple; where it is
inadequate or out of plumb the whole structure must sooner or later collapse. I believe
there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot
be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God.”
You should add this one to your reading list- I can even loan you my copy if you don’t mind some scribbles on it… Great stuff, Catherine. Tough stuff that takes bravery…crucial stuff…articulately and elegantly. You’re ok, man. 🙂
I keep meaning to read Tozer because I don’t like it when someone gets quoted to me more than once and I have no idea who the person is 🙂
Thanks for posting this. Now I know which book to start with.
I’m really glad I didn’t delve too deeply into these thoughts and questions when I was younger. I feel like now I’ve wrestled with a lot of things, and there is an ease with which I approach doubt (as always, this could change, and I could be freaking out next week over something else!). What I mean is, there is enough grounding to trust that God will bring me around as long as I do my part.
Thanks again, Jon.
I found you because you posted on my blog last week, and I am so glad I did! This really hit home for me. Thank you so much for sharing. I have been struggling with this very same question in my mid-twenties and am struggling to define my concept of God in a way that makes sense to me.
I remember your blog – I love coming across other young women who are experiencing similar things. I think one of the biggest things we have to remember – no matter what age we are – is that we don’t get to define God. Only He does. That was freeing for me, because when I was trying to put my finger on exactly who He was, it seemed His Self or Presence or What-Have-You only existed if I defined it. But God is who He is regardless of my understanding of it.
That’s what I rest on.
Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment!