May God Rid You Of God
Years ago, I got the opportunity to attend an event where theologian, philosopher, and author Pete Rollins was speaking.
After he delivered a mind-blowing talk based on his newest book The Idolatry of God, I had the chance to speak with him for a moment or two and also asked him to sign an event poster for me.
This is what he wrote above his signature:
I pray God rid you of God.
You might think that an odd thing for a theologian to wish upon someone, which is exactly what I thought at the moment. It seemed to go against everything I'd spent my career as a pastor trying to teach.
I've had a few years to ponder that line since then, however. I learned that it actually comes from Meister Eckhart, a German theologian from the 14th century, who wrote this:
God, rid me of God.
Of the smallness of that which I comprehend.
Of the arrogance to believe that I
That these answers
could be just another notch on the belt
of my own insecurity.
They may help to hold up my pants but they’ll never let me run free.
Rollins once said that any time we begin to speak of God we have already begun to diminish the reality of God because that reality is far too real for us to comprehend.
So we do our best to speak of God anyway, which means we will use language and ideas that make sense to us based on what we've been taught, or on our own experience.
There's nothing inherently wrong with this. I mean, how do you speak of the infinite when all we have are finite terms?
But because of this, there is always room for the very real possibility that we will create God in our own image, or worse---in an image that is nothing at all like God, which (like all the ancient biblical prophets) Rollins asserts is idolatry.
Why am I venturing into all of this mind-blowing stuff? Well, it comes down to this... If we have created a false and idolatrous image of God, the God that we say we long for, desire, and wish to experience is most likely not God at all.
And this is why Rollins wrote what he wrote on my poster, and why Eckhart wrote that same line centuries ago.
We have to be willing to let go of our preconceived notions of God and live in faith that our letting go will open us up to a more full, abundant, and perhaps even surprising experience of God.
Letting go enables us to experience the love of God in ways that are not bound by duty, obligation, dread, or outright fear. Instead, we discover something new, as Rollins points out:
“Here God is not approached as an object that we must love, but as a mystery present in the very act of love itself.”
Don't get me wrong, none of this means that we should give up learning, searching, digging, wrestling, and pursuing a more full understanding of God. It just means that we hold all that we discover loosely.
Because God is full of surprises---that much I do know.
May it be so for you, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.