Thursday, January 29, 2015

A God named Fluffy....

I have a lot of books. When my husband and I moved into our first home after packing up the last trinkets of my childhood leftover at my parents' house, he couldn't believe how many boxes stacked up in our little study. "You've found another one?!" he would exclaim, when in our unpacking I would discover a box marked "toys" only to find a single layer of stuffed animals sheltering another trove of ideas penned by far better minds than my own. A few of those boxes, mostly empty, still sit in our study, as the volume far outstripped the shelf space.

Among these is a shelf of my "to-do" list: books I picked up here or there for a creative title or interesting cover page or because "a friend of a friend read on a blog" that a book was worth the read. They stare at me accusingly every time I enter, as though the green corners of bills stick up from their bindings, reminding me of the groceries they could have been. Some of these books have made their way to my office, clustered full of ideas that could potentially solve my next crisis but have yet to even have the binding bent.

Today, in a surprising show of resolve, I picked one up: "A Grief Observed" by C.S. Lewis. The dust was thick enough I couldn't even remember how I came to have it; certainly because his name on the cover means it's worth the read, but whether I bought it, received it, or snitched it out of a library recycle bin, I can't recall. Whatever the situation that brought it to my possession, in one sitting, I had read it all.  Of the pages I marked, I will share two with you now:

"Imagine a man in total darkness. He thinks he is in a cellar or dungeon. Then there comes a sound. He thinks it might be a sound from far off - waves or wind-blown trees or cattle half a mile away. And if so, it proves he's not in a  cellar, but free, in the open air. Or it may be a much smaller sound close at hand - a chuckle of laughter. And if so, there is a friend just beside him in the dark. Either way, a good, good sound...I, or any mortal at any time, may be utterly mistaken as to the situation he is really in." (p. 64)


"Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask - half our great theological and metaphysical problems - are like that." (p. 69)

Every day I stand in front of God and demand He prove Himself. He must prove He is loving. He must prove He is good. He must prove He is trustworthy. In arrogance I place God in the defendant's seat, grasping for myself the gavel and the law, seated above Him in judgement of His character and actions.

The truth is I would much rather be getting on without God. I would much rather define that which is morality. I would much rather go about doing what I plan to do and like to do without His interference, and certainly without all the mishaps I blame on Him that are really due to my own sin and the sin that has broken our world asunder.

The truth're this way.

We all are.

Certainly we have always been, though post-enlightenment we no longer ask those questions behind closed doors but brashly scream our demands from the mountaintops of the Internet, the television, the speaker's podium... Christians, eager in their defense of God, have sought to answer those demands, to rationalize God down into a box the culture can manage. With the best of intentions we have taken the "wild lion" of God (to borrow another Lewis metaphor from "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe"), and made Him a house cat. To make Him more manageable we have shaved His mane, put a food dish in the corner, and collared Him with with "Fluffy" on His name tag.

Yet God declares of Himself:

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, declares the LORD.  For 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 ESV)


"You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, 'He did not make me'; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, 'He has no understanding'"?

We seek to rationalize and explain something so far beyond our capacity, that as Lewis puts it, we are like a person in total darkness trying to explain what is going on around us. For a God who can claim the heavens as the work of His fingers (Psalm 8:3) must certainly be far beyond our comprehension. We create, but only based on what is already known. God created everything without prior inspiration. Creativity in its purest form is represented in the mind of God, who made everything from nothing. There was nothing for Him to base this all off of.

This is not to say we should not think or question or discuss in order to understand Him better, but we should have far more humility in doing so than we do in present America. As Lewis put it, our grand theological discussions and arguments are arguments over nonsense. We cannot even understand that over which we argue, as though two residents of ancient Egypt were to stumble upon a computer tablet and seek to explain it. Even that is only a pale comparison to the difference between God's actions and our understanding.

Lewis was right. We sit in the dark, and hearing the wind through trees, we think we are free, even though the darkness might hide the bars of a cage. Praise God who, just as He knows all things, knew we would always seeks to live life on our own terms and sent Jesus:

"Who being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:6-11 NIV)