Let’s talk about God.
As soon as I say those words, I realize how impossible it is to try to capture God in words. How impossible it is to describe who God is and what God is like. An analogy: If you have ever tried to write a eulogy for someone, you realize the inadequacy of words to capture the essence of that person. If we humans cannot capture even another human being in words, how dare we think we can adequately describe God in words!
That being said, it is still helpful to try to say something meaningful about God. But first, we must acknowledge that our human language is limited, finite, and inadequate. Coupled with this fact is another fact: God is too much and too near. Lauren Winter, in her book Wearing God, says: “God’s utter difference from the world is too much to describe, and God’s nearest intimacy with the world is too near to name.” We can only gesture toward who God is and acknowledge that what we have said is inadequate.
God’s “too-much-ness” we experience every time we gaze at the stars at night, knowing our nearest star (excluding our sun) is almost 5 light years away. This means the light from that star–traveling 186,000 miles per second—takes almost five years to reach the earth! And the Hubble telescope has taken pictures of galaxies (such as the sombrero galaxy) which is 28 million light years away! Facts like these always make me utter to myself, “What must God be like?” I ask that same question when I study the inner
workings of a single cell, the community life of bees, or the intricacies of the human brain. God, indeed, is “too much.”
But God is also nearer than we can imagine. If we hold a picture an inch from our eyes, it becomes strange and unknowable not because it is too far away, but because it is too close. God is something like that—too near to us for us to grasp fully.
In her book, Winner talks about another favorite Biblical image of God: God as hider. In Isaiah 45 we read, “Truly, you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Savior.” Sometimes God hides. When we are tempted to say that God is absent, the truth is God may be hiding in that very person or situation we have declared bereft of God.
In one way we can even say God was hiding in the person of Jesus. Jesus was so unlike what people expected of the Messiah. He was so ordinary and so human. And his crucifixion—ironically—seemed devoid of any redeeming qualities. Yet this Jesus dared to call God “Abba.” He described God in lovely words we humans could appreciate: a good shepherd, a wise farmer, a dutiful housewife, a caring mother hen, a forgiving father.
Jesus also pointed out to us some of God’s favorite hiding places: God hides in bread and wine… in silence… in creation… in poverty… in hunger… in pain… in joy… in sickness… in loneliness… in children… in friendship… in music and song… and even at wedding receptions. The God who hides, is also the God who self-reveals. God is like a little child playing hide-and-seek who gives herself away by giggling. The theologian Belden Lane says, “Our job, as friends and disciples and reverencers and lovers of the Lord is to listen for God’s laughter.”
Sometimes we must put aside all our words about God and just sit in the presence of God. Or we can use our inadequate human words to commune with this Too-Much and Too-Near Beloved One:
Beloved God… You are too much and too near… What can I say about you?… My words fall short of anything I could express of your goodness… your beauty… your power… your creativity… your love. You are beyond the beyond… You are nearer than the near… You are hidden all around me and within me… Give me the eyes to see you especially in the suffering and the needy ones… in situations that seem hopeless… in circumstances that don’t make sense. I desire to find you… to know you.. to love you… to thank you… to be one with you. Please keep my yearning for you alive… my curiosity about you constantly stirring… and my love for you steady, strong, and filled with laughter and joy. Amen.
Is there anything in this reflection that stands out for you?
Have you ever experienced God as “too much and too near”?
Where is God “hiding” in your life right now?
Do you have any favorite images of God–even if they are inadequate?
Since we just celebrated Pentecost, I chose a hymn of praise today: “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” written in 1867. The music is an old Welsh hymn. The words were written by Walter C. Smith.
Is there anything you’d like to say about this reflection… about God? I welcome your response below!