In Front Of All This Beauty
I spend a lot of time thinking, reading, and writing about theological stuff. In fact, the study of theological stuff dominates most of my thoughts on almost every single day of my life.
I should say at this point that my use of the word "stuff" is both calculated and appropriate. In other words, I meant to use it, because it applies here as a catch-all category for the various and sundry topics that I seem to ponder.
Things like: Could Jesus microwave a burrito so hot, that even he couldn't eat it?
Let that one soak in for a moment. I bet your mind is completely blown at this point. You're welcome.
In all seriousness, though... One of the many jobs I have as a pastor is to wrestle with the aforementioned theological stuff and the ways that our theology both forms and informs virtually every other aspect of our lives.
But what I've come to understand after years of serving in ministry, studying the Bible, teaching classes, preaching 35+ times a year, and being granted multiple graduate degrees in the field is this...
I don't know anything, really.
I mean, I know some stuff, but in the end, none of that really matters either. Because God is so much bigger than anything I can imagine, and God's grace abounds more than I can predict.
So it's safer to simply say, "I know nothing," and start from scratch. And by "scratch" I mean to start from a simple place, free from preconceived notions, my own baggage, desires, and firmly held beliefs.
I also mean to start with my own experiences of God---all around me, in me, and through me. This is the best way to begin to understand more about God's purposes in the world, even though I might not be able to fully understand God.
There's a sense of awe and wonder that comes from being able to let go of all that I know (or think I know) and have my eyes opened wide by my experience. Our experiences shape our beliefs in ways that knowledge simply can't.
Singer/Songwriter Bruce Cockburn once wrote:
All these years of thinking ended up like this: in front of all this beauty, understanding nothing.
I love that line. It speaks to me of the joy that can come when we let go of our need to define everything, categorize our feelings, to explain away our experiences in favor of something more rational, predictable, and easily measured.
And when we stand in awe of the beauty and realize the beauty itself is beyond our comprehension, and that it doesn't require an explanation... that's the beginning of wisdom.
It's what the ancients would have described as the "fear of the Lord," a phrase that doesn't really translate into English from Hebrew all that well, to be honest.
The "fear of the Lord" is a phrase that speaks to the realization that washes over us when we finally get that God is God and we are not. It's the moment when we begin to understand that we can't place God into neat little categories.
And all of the things we thought we knew about God get turned upside down as we begin to experience God, are transformed by God, find ourselves rocked to our very core by God.
Friends, sometimes all you can do is stand in awe of the beauty around you, and "clap your hand over your mouth" like the ancient book of Job instructs.
It is in those moments that we truly learn. It is in those moments that we inch closer to the truth about who God is, and who we are to God.
May it be so for you today and every day. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.