Thursday, January 27, 2005

God is Weird

C.S. Lewis once said about the story of Christ's birth something to the effect that it is so bizarre and irrational, man could not have invented it; therefore, he was convinced it must be true.

Jason is currently reading through the Old Testament. He's almost to the end of Genesis, right now he's reading about Joseph. Occasionally, I hear him chuckling and sighing, and I see him shaking his head. He turned to me once and said, "These stories are so crazy and strange." I replied, "God is weird."

Because we were created by God, in His image, we often like to athropomorphize Him, make Him in our image. But God is not man. We cannot comprehend Him, but He has put in our hearts the desire to try to do just that, and our frustration of trying to understand the eternal from the standpoint of the finite has been the earmark of the human condition since time began.

I bet there were many times that Abraham had wished that God had not chosen him. Likewise for all the men and women that God has worked through throughout time to effect His will on earth. Probably the one way authentically to know that God is active in your life is that you really do not want Him there sometimes. If there is no struggle with God, no railing against Him, no frustration, no moments of delusion or even utter faithlessness, there is no relationship. I think of Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis, his grip not loosening until he received God's blessing. We wrestle, we fight, we complain, we rebel, we hide. And, if we are among the most fortunate, we stumble, scraping our knees on the gravel of our humanity, still grasping at the hem of His robe, and find ourselves lifted to victory in Him in the arms of grace. We do not let go of Him, because He will not let go of us. But, on this earth, in this life at least, we will never fully comprehend Him, and it is a grave injustice to Him if we ever think we can. But, it is an even graver tragedy for us if we stop trying to. That striving to seek the heart of God is the central theme of Carolyn Arends's excellent book, Living the Questions: Making Sense of the Mess and Mystery of Life.

God has an amazing sense of subtlety; we humans prefer grand gestures and sweeping demonstrations. While He occasionally employs those trembling forces of fire and brimstone, or triumphal displays of angelic choruses and thunderous voice, He more often works in hidden ways, especially since the work of salvation was done on the cross at Calvary. Ever since the new covenant, God has worked on the innermost parts of people's hearts rather than in moving mountains and parting seas. Yet, He tells us we too can do these things in faith.

I, for one, know that if I were God, I would use the smiting power a whole lot more. Abortionists, child-abusers, communists, war-mongers - all would receive a severe spanking of lightning right on the tushy. I would also never put a parent through the grief of planning their child's funeral, and I would stop 9/11s before they could get past the "Mohammed, contact me immediately! I have a wonderful plan to attack the infidels. Love, Osama" stage. Should the smitings be somehow seen as "random" by atheists, I would constantly be showing myself in the most awe-inspiring ways, with pageantry so grand none would have any excuse for not knowing that I am who I am. Then I would smite some more. "Spare the lightning rod, spoil the humans" would be my godly motto.

But God comes to us as a Nazarene, a man of no reputation, a humble teacher whose miracles were dismissed by the religious elite as demonic works. He comes to us to show us how to live a life of eternal significance in a world where we never feel fully at home. He dies for us, so that we might live. God's work on the cross, the shedding of Jesus's blood is to me (and I assume almost all believers) not an historic event, but a current event. Every day, when God allows sinners reconciliation to Him, He dies again so that we will not have to. This is truly weird - why am I so important to Him, that He continues to work on my behalf, offering me "beauty for ashes, strength for fear, gladness for mourning, peace for despair" - meeting every sin with grace, tempering every judgement with mercy? Blessed weirdness! "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. (Ps. 139:6)"

So, yes, God is weird. The Bible is a chronicle of that singular strangeness - the instances on this earthly plane where the holy has met the human, often with great messiness and elation and heartache, but never without significance and eternal ramifications. God shakes up this world He has made when we would rather He let us alone, eludes our understanding when we wish He would send unmistakable messages, and refuses to conform to our human sense of justice and fair play; but, in the midst of our doubt and anger, He never fails us. His faithfulness is extraordinary, and even the most stubborn of wandering lambs will find that famous "peace that surpasses all understanding" when they turn from the wayward path and realize they are already found.

P.S. "Weird" is weird, as it violates the entire rule of "'i' before 'e', except after 'c' and when it says 'ay' like 'neighbor' and 'weigh.' Wacky English!

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