Undefining God

My apologies for my bad case of Blog Neglect in the last several days.  Life happened.  I have hope that things are a bit more settled now, in the aftermath of family visits and kid birthdays.

Tony Jones has issued a Challenge to Progressive Theo-Bloggers, and, like it or not, I fit most of the criteria.  I’m squeaking in before the deadline, offering my thoughts on God.  Warning: Contains things my liberal and conservative friends alike may find displeasing.

My earliest memory of having any interest in God is from around age eight.  My mother, an avid quilter, had a sewing room in our partially finished basement.  I used to love to sit down there with her, amid the bins full of fabric, thread, batting and stuffing (yes, there’s a difference, apparently), buttons, binding, and all manner of other quilting supplies.  We had a book shelf in the room, and I would quietly read while my mother marked, measured, and made the sewing machine whir.  Honestly, if there was a more spiritual place for a little girl, I can’t think of one.

Occasionally, I would talk to Mom while we were down there.  Unless she was marking something delicate, she never seemed to mind light conversation.  That basement room was a place I felt safe exposing the deepest questions of my heart.  On one of those occasions, I asked Mom,

Who is God?

My mother, not a particularly religious woman, gave me some answer about God being everywhere and in everything.  It fell pretty flat for me.  It didn’t make sense.  In fact, I remember being sort of angry, because I felt she hadn’t answered the question.  In my eight-year-old mind, God was a who, not a where or a what.

When I was first introduced to Christianity as a teen, something immediately clicked for me.  At last!  People like me, who understood God as a Someone rather than a Something.  I suppose that’s why it didn’t take me long to jump on board in the church; after all, in evangelical Christian faith, everyone knows who God is.  At long last, six years after my first query, I had an answer.

Here’s the part some of my more liberal Christian friends may find distasteful: I still believe that answer.  I still believe that God is the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  I still believe that God is revealed to people through faith, through the Bible, and through the prompting of the Spirit.

But (and here’s where the most conservative of my friends will likely cringe) I also believe God is much, much more than that.  A common sermon illustration on the Trinity is that it is like water, ice, and steam—all the same thing, but all still H2O (this is one of my least favorite analogies, by the way, but bear with me here for a sec).  Yet “water” is much more to us than its molecular composition.  Water is for drinking, cleaning, bathing, swimming, growing crops.  Its meaning in our lives is so much deeper than what it’s made of or its properties or what it does.

That is what God is.

God is not merely the Someone we talk about in the context of the Trinity.  God is not only the creator of the universe and the author of all life.  God is . . . more.  Just more.

Long ago, I stopped trying to figure out who God is and started trying to experience God more fully.  I found out that some people take this to mean that we have to feel something during prayer or singing or listening to a sermon.  Personally, I have rarely had that happen.  Sure, I love those things.  But I don’t feel moved in the Spirit while doing them.  I’ve discovered that I meet with God in a vastly different way.

Love him or hate him, this video of Bill Hybels describes where I find God:

I find God—I feel deeply, deeply moved—in the things that wreck me.  In the things that shake me to my core, that make me sit up and say, “That cannot happen any more.  I will not take it.”  Because I believe with all my heart that this is where God lives.  This is where God works.  This is where God moves.  God exists in the places of our hearts where we are utterly, completely wrecked.  I believe we know God fully through that.  Because when we are spiritually destroyed by injustice, it’s not enough to shake our heads and say, “The world sure is going to Hell in a handbasket.”  The pain we see is what wrecks God, too.  The call is for us to become more Christ-like by doing something about it.

I doubt I’ve answered the million-dollar question of who God is.  I don’t think it’s answerable.  I don’t think we can do any more than live to experience God every day.  Where do you find God?  Where do you see God working in your life?

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2 thoughts on “Undefining God

  1. Actually, you have answered the question. You were realy asking “who is God for me”. You have found the answer, which include realising that it haw to be “who is God for me now”, and the explicit change implied in that question.

    I understanding that is a long way towards wisdom.

    • Yes, you’re right–I hadn’t thought of it that way. I’m learning to ask not “Who is God?” but “Who is God in my life right now?” Tough question in either case, but the second will indeed lead toward wisdom (I hope!).

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