I get paid to talk about God. Frankly, it makes me a bit nervous.
Some people seem so sure of themselves when they talk about God. They seem uber-confident that their way of seeing the world, of understanding God is the only correct one of all the options. Maybe they lie in bed at night and wonder, maybe they second-guess themselves, but in sermons, conversations, books and blog posts they give no indication that there’s any chance they could be wrong. They seem 100% confident.
Sometimes, I wish I had more of that confidence. I wish I was more sure that I had the whole God thing figured out. I wish that I still believed everything that one guy wrote or that one brand of theology teaches or that one out-of-context verse seems to suggest.
But, I’m not that confident. I think that when I speak of God, I speak as one who sees “as through a glass, darkly (to quote the Apostle Paul from the KJV). And although, in the Bible, we see the revelation of God to humanity, it comes wrapped in ambiguity, nuance, shades of meaning, ancient languages and strange customs. It comes to us in poetry, 1st century apocalyptic literature, and Greco-Roman rhetorical forms.
I’m not saying this to suggest I throw up my hands and give up the pursuit of God. In fact, I’m saying just the opposite. When the pursuit of God becomes simply the mastery of information about God, I find myself getting easily bored. It’s like getting a new game on my phone; it’s exciting at first, but eventually I master it, clear all the levels and then I’m done. I’ve never played Angry Birds again.
But if God is a mystery to be unraveled, if God is rife with seeming contradictions – loving AND just, relational AND completely other, all powerful AND allows for human freedom – then I’m all in. When I first met Jennifer 20+ years ago, I couldn’t get enough of her – she was a mystery to be unraveled. Seventeen years later, I’m still pursuing her because there’s more to know – and the more I know the more I fall in love.
So here’s to the journey. Here’s to the chase that will never end. Here’s to a God who can never be confined to a textbook, blog or one person’s ideas. Here’s to new understandings, new discoveries, new ways of understanding God in the world. Here’s to all the Christian “brands” – Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentacostal, “other” – and the ways that they see and experience God. Here’s to the poets, musicians, rappers, novelists and theologians who put ideas to paper, to music, to canvas, who open themselves up to misunderstanding and criticism in their pursuit to understand God better. Here’s to hard questions and answers that don’t come easy, to faith in spite of the hell-on-earth that we experience every day. And here’s to my fellow pastors – some who are quite sure of themselves, others, like me, who have more doubts – who stand up every Sunday and invite people to keep pursuing.
I’ll finish by quoting the last couple lines of my favorite spoken-word poem, by Anis Mojgani called “For Those Who Can Ride in a n Airplane for the First Time”:
Slow down and hold what you see just a little bit longer.”
For in a world of fast faces, I’m looking for God everywhere, trying to figure out a little better this little thing he made called a man.”
(you can find the whole poem on youtube - warning: adult content )