Why do we think God wants to be understood?
I guess it’s because in most of our relationships we ourselves expect to be understood and we strive, if possible, to understand the other. Mutual understanding is par for the course for a good relationship and who doesn’t want to have a good relationship with God?
But the trouble come when we realise that God isn’t much bothered about being understood (or misunderstood, as is the more likely scenario).
Wanting to be understood is a human quality. If God is indeed, a divine being with objective reality outside of ourselves (and not just some shimmering reflection of our own inner ‘divinity’) then he/she is truly other and therefore we are not equals. Why therefore do we expect to understand God?
Last Sunday was Trinity Sunday – the Sunday when describing/defining God as this paradoxical three-in-one and one-in-three being taxes the minds of anyone down to preach.
I preached too but I did not attempt to define or describe the trinity. Instead I took as my text the only verse in the Bible which does actually define God. The only sentence that begins with the words ‘God is… ‘
and what does it go on to say?
‘God is trinity’? No. It doesn’t say that. Not because it’s not true but because becoming entangling with the complexities of trinity is a bit like staring at the workings out at the side of the exam paper and failing to see the outcome at the end, the actual answer to the question.
‘God is….’ says the Apostle John …. Love’ (1 John 4:16)
Yes, really. Don’t over complicate it. Every human being on the planet understands love – either through their experience of it (parents, siblings, friends, children, lover) or from their experience of the lack of it. Love is the most fundatmental, basic and essential experience/quality in the universe.
But just because it’s a simple and universal concept, don’t think you’ve understood God! For one thing virtually all believers will at some point say ‘how can God be love when so many terrible things happen?’
What this definition tells you is that God doesn’t want to be understood, instead God’s only/greatest/ most overwhelming desire is to be encountered.
Don’t miss the encounter because you’re so obsessed with trying to understand!
We human beings have an unfortunate tendency to distance ourselves from things we don’t undestand. We intellectualise, we dissect, we catagorise – all in an attempt to comprehend. We think if we can just label or package or comprehend God then we will have some kind of handle, we will have some sense of control.
We are like ‘would be’ wine connoisseurs who learn about vineyards and soils and grapes and sugar content and processes and bottling and storage BUT NEVER ACTUALLY TASTE THE WINE!
God invites us to encounter, to ‘taste and see’ that he is good. When we worship we allow encounter to take precedence over understanding. When we wait silently in prayer, we acknowledge a willingness to submit to God’s action for us and in us, bringing only our own empty and upturned hands to the encounter.