just an apprentice

the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...

Friday, November 17, 2006

The little we know of God...


We must be prepared to find that the last step of our relationship with God is an act of pure adoration, face to face with a mystery into which we cannot enter.

We grow into the knowledge of God gradually from year to year until the end of our life and we will continue to do so through all eternity, without coming to a point when we shall be able to say that now we know all that is knowable of God. This process of the gradual discovery of God leads us at every moment to stand with our past experience behind us and the mystery of God knowable and still unknown before us.

The little we know of God makes it difficult for us to learn more, because the more cannot simply be added to the little, since every meeting brings such a change of perspective that what was known before becomes almost untrue in the light of what is known later.

Creative Prayer: Daily Readings with Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh (London, UK: Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd, 1987) p. 60.

The longer I am alive, the more I realize that I know so little about God. I am growing to realize that's okay. I am coming to accept that life is about a gradual discovery of God, who is mystery. Don't confuse me with those Christians who have God all figured out. But I am trying to stay on the way.

Jason Campbell, on staff at Trinity Vineyard in Atlanta, writes a wonderful piece on what it means to be human. The Christian truth makes a startling claim in today's world. The pinnacle of human life is not self-actualization--the autonomous individual living life, pursuing dreams, defining reality as one sees it through the subjective lens of experience. No, this is not the fullness of life that Jesus reveals. The fullness of life is only experienced in communion with others through union with God. It is only in relationship that I can even know the mystery that is personhood--who I am. I may hear God speak, reveal, uncover who I am in private ways, but it will always be sifted in the context of relationships with others. And my experience has been that it is through others, often in unspoken ways, that I come to know who I am...and the reality of God.

We see this communion as the ground of being present in the Trinity--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the eternal communion of love and goodness. We enter into our humaness more fully, not by becoming more independent, but by dying to self.

How hard it is to let go of the little we know, to embrace the more, the deeper. The post-modern response to the certainty of modernity has often taken the form of nihilism. The response of Christians has often been to dig in with an apologetic of certainty based on rationalism. Yet what we know about God is not even captured by the meager resources of human reason.

So the Christian worldview begins with the confession that the Word (the Truth) is not just an ontological category to name God, but a person, Jesus who bridges the gap between the transcendent God and the limitations of time, place and humanness. God embraces our humanness and makes it possible for communion with God and with our fellow human beings. The little I know about God begins with a confession that is beyond words. It is a yearning deep in my being. A yearning for God, to embrace God, to know and be known. And to be freed up from my pathos, my pain, my psychotic ways of coping with life and avoiding reality.

This is the truth that cannot be contained by doctrinal formulas, although they are a shadow of the reality. We live in the shadows and look forward to the day when all tears will be wiped away. And we wait patiently. Patiently. Not growing weary of doing good. Living with hope in the midst of questions--but not denying the questions. Not neurotic, just affirming the goodness of God amidst the pathos of the human story. Rejecting the neurotic compulsions of culture that emerge out of our human impulse to cover up our pain and shame.

We bring our full selves into the communion. And this is not an exclusive withdrawal from the world, but a move towards it even as Jesus did. Communion is both symbolic and real. To the extent that we are able to move from communion on our terms, to a letting go, we will know peace.

So we bear with one another in the Church and in the world. Even as Jesus walked with real people, sat at table, washed feet, laughed, drank wine at weddings...so even the spiritual dimension of life, of communion is expressed in the material world. Spirituality is not escape from the world, nor is it accomodation to the hollow, fragmented, destructive expressions of humanness. Jesus brings together the spiritual and the physical, in his very being.

So the Jesus we follow, leads us not only through his example, but by grace through a gracious invitation to union with himself and his body--the Church.

Heart with loving heart united, met to know God's holy will. Let his love in us ignited more and more our spirits fill. He the head, we are his members, we reflect the light he is. He the Master, we disciples, he is ours and we are his.

May we all so love each other and all selfish claims deny, so that each one for the other will not hesitate to die. Even so our Lord has loved us, for our lives he gave his life. Still he grieves and still he suffers, for our selfishness and strife.

Since, O Lord, you have demanded that our lives your love should show, so we wait to be commanded forth into your world to go. Kindle in us love's compassion so that ev'ry one may see in our fellowship the promise of a new humanity.

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