Over the past two weeks I've been in several conversations with professing Christians who have ardently been questioning the role of both God the Father, and God the Son. Many different stances. Many different moods. The common thread: disapproving of a distant God.
Both my mind and heart have been absorbed with this. Yesterday, in fact, I felt an emotional blow to the gut as it came to me - the real common thread that their argument's were displaying is a reluctancy toward any system devoid of man's centrality. I've actually heard many friends of mine - passionate, dear friends - claim this same thing for years now. However, something simple stuck out to me yesterday. They are are afraid of moving out from their place, and into the sublime.
I recalled my favorite short story from Dostoevsky, The Dream of a Ridiculous Man - which tells the story of a man who is so bombarded with his life, that he at- tempts suicide... but fails to "pull the trigger". Through a series of events after this failed attempt, the man recognizes that he was - understandably - blinded by his lot in life.
There's no question that life is hard. We all have yokes to pass over to Christ. Daily. Our broken, fallen world is riddled with unrefined edges that chip away at our sanity and centeredness. Our lives are so filled with such jarring occurrences, that we rightly call out for immediate aid. But this can be a distraction, I feel. My soul needs more than bandages along the way; it needs a new way entirely.
Struggling here on earth, I often feel like the lost kid at the supermarket - and panic wins. At times, all I can fathom is my own paranoia, and from that place, only hold one desire... for that paranoia to not become a reality. If I'm bold enough to think through these moments any further, it typically ends with such tunnel-vision, that I can only perceive the empty grocery-aisle in which I stand alone. We too easily lose perspective. In those moments my want is for my mom to rush to me and bend down, look me in the eyes, and say she's here. And that's a beautiful want. But there's more. I want to be held. I want to be brought away from that place of despair.
I'm always wanting God to quickly come to my aid, and bend down to look me in the eyes, and say "I'm here." But that's just it. It's almost daily. This life is prevalent with such "trips to the store". We are always being duped into thinking we're lost. And what's more, I think we're always being duped into thinking the endgame is for God to be here with us, stuck in the store. I would rather hear Him say "Come", or better yet, "Welcome." My hope cannot reside in the finality that my scenarios can be "manageable". This desire is fine, and a real need, and can efficiently serve a purpose, like a band-aid. But what we need is to be brought to another world entirely.
What these past couple of weeks have reminded me is that we operate from at least two theological paradigms: 1) we are "here", and need God to come re- side with us, or 2) we are "here", and need God to bring us to reside with Him. The former is the common thread that I found running through those I've had the recent conversations with recently. Transcendence is the vehicle for both views. However, the former makes God the passenger. But, didn't he already do this? Wasn't that the beauty of Christ's Advent?
You might be thinking that I'm being too staunched, or making a mountain out of a mole-hill. And maybe. But there are two specific pitfalls that I've seen re- lated to this first view.
"We are the goal" - It's difficult to read a passage like Psalms 103, Job, or 2 Corinthians 12, and consider that God's attention towards us is the pinnacle of all things; that His intentions end in our immedi- ate happiness. The testimonies found here, and in a myriad of other passages, are of His blessings and grace towards us, but in the con- text of another reason: the primacy of His worth. Not ours. Once this is understood, we are open to see Him, in all of His truth.
"God lacks life changing sublimity" - How can someone encounter God, and suppose that, once they have, He is anything less than awe- inspiring. Movies and books draw us out from our lives, and leave us desiring something more. How would an encounter with God be less? The story within Isaiah 6 starkly contrasts such affectional lethargy, but bringing a common man into the presence of True Beauty. Here, Isaiah's message shares of God's supreme, worldview-shifting splendor:
...I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
God does not wish us to remain lost, crying in the empty aisle. But neither does He wish us to just remain in a labyrinth of such aisles. The Gospel is the news of a King bringing His bride out of the jaws of death, and carrying her back to His Kingdom.
Once we grasp this, and take time to contemplate the stories of those who encountered Him in Scripture, and actually meet the God of Ezekiel 1 ourselves, we'll realize that the transcendence of God to man could not have been any other way except through Christ. We'll realize that He can't be contained in our finite "store". We'll resemble Dostoevsky's Ridiculous Man, and we'll proclaim of the True greatness that awaits us outside of this world. We'll be transfixed to transcend it, await to be called up to His...
I lifted up my hands and called upon eternal Truth — no, not called upon it, but wept. Rapture, infinite and boundless rapture intoxicated me. Yes, life and — preaching! I made up my mind to preach from that very moment and, of course, to go on preaching all my life. I am going to preach, I want to preach. What? Why, truth. For I have beheld truth, I have beheld it with mine own eyes, I have beheld it in all its glory! - the Ridiculous Man
And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking. - Ezekiel 1:26-28