Saturday, July 16, 2011

Such Knowledge

I later felt a little convicted over reducing God’s Word to a smart-alec comment, more wise-crack than witness, smugly quoting for my own satisfaction a memorized verse apart from the context in which it was written.  I had used my memory verse as a lament, an expression of grief over my incapacity to know it all.  I had exploited it as a mere venting of frustration, no less than my paraphrase of “Arrgh!”
“O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.
You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.”      Psalm 139:1-6
Frustration was not, however, the primary emotion prompting the psalmist’s thoughts.  His inability to comprehend God led not to exasperation but celebration.  Coming to terms with the limitations of his own humanity and the immensity of God’s deity, David was able to say, in effect, “You’re God, I’m not.  And I’m good with that.”
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways 
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
The paradox is this:  knowing God does not require comprehending Him.
Flannery O’Connor expressed it well:  “Whatever you do anyway, remember that these things are mysteries and that if they were such that we could understand them, they wouldn’t be worth understanding.  A God you can understand would be less than yourself.”
Understanding God is not the point.  Being OK with our incapacity to understand God is the point.  And not only being OK with it, but celebrating it, for acknowledging our puniness in light of God’s largeness gives us permission to be puny.  We can relax, knowing we cannot know.
Why bother, then, with exploration and study?  What part does discovery and learning have in the life of a Christian?  If we truly celebrate the mystery of God’s omni’s, do we dare risk attempting to define the One Who is indefinable?

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