Who is God? That statement insures that this blog is going to be interesting. It is probably one of the most questioned ideas in all of time. I'm not going to debate whether I think God is a literal person, an idea, a nirvana-esque achievement, in inner strength, or any other concept. I'm open about the fact that I am a Christian and believe He is a creator. So instead I want to take a look at the nature of who God is.
This topic has been a huge stumbling block for me in my own journey. Growing up in church and in my family, I often heard God described in different ways. In my mind, God was angry, loving, vindictive, jealous, happy, providing, protective, passive, involved, detached, omnipresent, all-knowing, and judgmental all at the same time. These characteristics seemed starkly contrastive, and nearly contradictory to me. I could not manage to wrap my head around just who exactly God was. How could a God be angry and also be the source of true joy? How could God kill people but be the ultimate example of love? The picture of God that I had in my head was something like a montage of magazine clippings glued together and grossly ill-fitting. That sounds horrible, but it was true. I had no cohesive image of God in my head, and it lead to me to a lot of doubts and struggles as I grew up. God seemed to be a collection of different people, each with their own personalities and nuances, all casting themselves under the title of God.
I think this is a point of confusion for a lot of people. Creating a summation of God is a leviathan task, and one that cannot be adequately done with a mere collection of adjectives. Imagine trying to sum up your best friend with a few words. I have a great friend named Wes. He's funny, deep-thinking, a talented musician, and very kind-hearted. There, now you know him too. In that context, we see how impossible it is to glean everything about someone in a few words. You know hardly anything about my friend. His upbringing, likes, dislikes, appearance, friends, behavior, even his last name are foreign to you. God is the same way. We can share his qualities with each other, but you cannot pretend to know him only by memorizing his traits. All of those qualities that I mentioned earlier can be attributed to God. He displays them throughout different parts of the Bible. I think one of the most important steps to understanding God is to cast off any pre-conceived notions of who you think God is before you really try to get to know him. In the same way that we can construct false ideas about people before we meet them, we can get a faulty picture of God if we just learn about him through other people's words. This is where I failed. I was afraid to get to know God because he sounded intimidating and scary. I didn't want to know a God who was angry and wrathful. It didn't sound like a savior I needed to know. It took me a long time to learn that God uses those traits for good. He protects his people from enemies. God sees and knows more than we ever can.
Think of it this way; an infant has the ability to process only basic, primitive thoughts. It knows how to cry to signal to parents that it is hungry, tired, in need of a diaper change, or just downright needs some attention. (do I ever want kids...hmmm) Now those parents, on the other hand, have fully-functional thought processes. They might be thinking about advanced calculus (who doesn't love derivation?) or how to make a bird-feeder for the back yard, or an important collection of documents they need for work; there's an infinite number of things that grown adults could be thinking about. In the same way, God is constantly processing things that we cannot even fathom. We are infants concerned with very primitive thoughts and needs, and God is contemplating things far beyond our grasp. Imagine a parent trying to teach a 3 month-old child how to properly wire the electricity for a large building or how to recognize the difference between a complex and compound sentence. There are very few things that have probabilities of absolutely zero, but I am fairly confident that is one of them. There is no way that a small baby can even understand those words. They go in one ear and out the other. And your poor kid is still ready to eat.
So even if God is operating on a thought level beyond our own, how can we justify his seemingly contradictory actions? Here's how I think about it: we have no place to try and understand God. His protection is not like our protection. His anger is not like our anger. His judgment is not like our judgement. His joy is not like our joy. I don't meant to imply that we should not approach God or try to learn about him. Those are great things, but at the end of the day, we cannot grasp God in his entirety. Trying to arbitrarily assign a few of his characteristics to represent his whole self is futile. God is more than we can ever imagine. Sometimes I like to think about God like a huge forest. There are an infinite number of components that encompass a forest. Thousands of species of animals, millions of insects, more plants and trees than can be counted, soils with different nutrients, streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, leaves, sticks, mountains, valleys, birds. The list is exhaustive. There can be no end to the things that are included, and there can be no end to the list of things that describe God. So don't be discouraged if God seems far too big to understand, because He is far too big to understand. But the beauty within that is that he longs to be close to everyone of us. "But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant." (Isaiah 42:14) This sounds pretty strange offhandedly, but it comes from a passage in Isaiah where God is describing just how desperately he longs to be close to each of us. That is a pretty powerful desire.
This might sound opposite to what I said, but I truly do believe that if we ever have to capture God in a word it would be this: love. We as humans experience love. We choose to love people. We fall in love with a special person. We love music and movies and nature. But God IS love. Any picture that we have of love comes directly from him, and that underlies any characteristic we find of his. His anger comes from a place of love. He disciplines because he loves. His love is not like our love though. "Everyone who lives has been born of God and knows God...because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4:7-12) There's no way to ever grasp God in his fullness, but we can accept his love in it's fullness. A perfect, complete, nonsensical love that makes us who we were meant to be. Whole.
(Thanks for taking the time to read. Follow me on Twitter at @matthewormand)