Looking For An Unexpected God
I have to make a confession. I tend to do that here from time to time. Confession is good for the soul, after all. So here goes.
Sometimes... I tend to imagine God the way that I want God to be.
It's something that I am not always aware of at the moment, but there are times when I suddenly realize that all of the ways I've been thinking about God have been blown up by the ways that God seems to be revealed around me.
In other words, God doesn't fit in any of my boxes. God isn't shaped at all like my preconceived notions about God. God defies my categories. God shows up in the most unexpected ways, and in the form of so many unexpected people, places, and things.
I was reading today from Alan Watt's fascinating and timely book The Wisdom of Insecurity, and I came across this line that really spoke to me about my efforts to create God in my own image. Here's what he said:
It is surely absurd to seek God in terms of a preconceived idea of what God is... To believe in God and to look for the God you believe in is simply to seek confirmation of an opinion.
For most people of faith, this is a jarring kind of statement because we've been taught to absolutely look for the God we've been taught to believe in---and most often without question.
But the moment we begin to look for that God---a God who is shaped like our beliefs---is the moment we limit our own understanding of God.
Further, even when we speak of God, our speech is limiting... because how do we describe the Infinite?
Also, when we try to explain God or define God in terms that fit our categories and beliefs, we further limit our understanding of God... because in the end how do we comprehend what is incomprehensible?
Alan Watt added this bit of wisdom to the previous statement, which demands a response from us:
If we are only open to discoveries which will accord with what we know already, we may as well stay shut.
You might be flinging your hands in the air in frustration at this point saying, "Leon! So what are we supposed to do? Not think about God? Not talk about God? What are you saying, man?"
Actually, all of this is a liberating move for people of faith, and particularly for those of us who call ourselves Christians.
Because once you surrender all of your own notions, beliefs, and preconceived ideas... you find yourself much more open to experience God in ways that you may have never imagined.
This is not to say that we shouldn't have beliefs... it just means that we should hold them a bit more loosely.
It doesn't mean that we shouldn't have ideas and imagination regarding the Divine... it just means that we acknowledge they aren't the be-all and end-all.
It means that we move and breathe in the world full of expectation that God is always going to be unexpected.
As you go about your day today---live in that kind of expectant hope. Live in the expectant hope that comes from knowing that you have no idea what God is going to do next, or how God is going to appear to you.
May that expectant hope fill you with unbelievable joy. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.