Elucidation #2—Perceiving God
Thomas Merton asserts, “Our idea of God tells us more about ourselves than about Him.” I think that is true. We presume that God is more in OUR likeness than we are created in His.
I grew up with this perception that God is both angry with us, yet madly in love with us. This split-personality Deity is mostly angry in the Old Testament, acting out His wrath on those whom He chooses. He is mostly loving in the New Testament, offering up His own Son as a sacrifice for us.
As I’ve grown older, and hopefully wiser, I’ve discovered more of God’s loving-kindness in the Hebrew Scriptures, but I still wrestle with the stories of His wrath…say on Sodom and Gemorrah or on less guilty subjects, like Uzzah who, with the best intentions, touched the ark.
One thing that becomes more and more apparent to me is that the Scriptures were written by human beings, with limited understanding, faulty perceptions and irrational superstitions. Regardless of the amount of divine inspiration—which I do believe was the impetus for the recording of Scripture—there was that imperfect filter called the human imagination that surely played a part in the telling of the grand story.
It goes back to Merton’s assertion that our idea of God is rooted in our own personality, perception and imagination. It’s impossible to separate our ideas from our identity. It’s just as impossible for us to think beyond our limited comprehension. So anything we think we know about God is severely limited by our humanness.
God created us with these limitations. He knew that we could never perceive of His vastness. Yet, we often act like we have Him figured out. How arrogant.
It would be like trying to contain the entire Milky Way in the candy bar by the same name. There’s just no possible way to fit the greatness of God into our human-sized containers. So why do we box Him in by our finite understanding? Why do we even try?
I am discovering that God is so much more than He has appeared to be in my mind’s eye. He is not bound by the black and white text on the pages of Scripture, nor by the black and white thinking of my youth.
He is not some Great Mystery to be solved or a Hidden Treasure to be discovered, but the treasures of His love I continue to discover every year. It is that continuous discovery that makes this journey so worthwhile. My goal is no longer to figure everything out or to hem God in by my vain imaginations. I am just happy to be on this journey of discovery.
In letting go of my black and white presumptions about God, I have found much freedom. I am free to accept more of Him, and to accept others who are created in His image even if they don’t look or act like it to me.
If you are holding onto your perception of God as absolute reality, I ask you to consider the possibility of a much larger, greater, more powerful God than you can even fathom. That is the One True God, the I AM. Don’t settle for a facsimile, no matter how reasonable.