Packaging

My mom has this quirky little habit of wrapping gifts with no tape. No, I’m not talking about using a gift bag. She wraps gifts with ribbons and bows and no tape. It’s fun to watch her.

My friend & I were talking recently about how our Christian life is not always wrapped up in beautiful packaging with ribbons and bows and certainly without tape.

The other day, two separate people told me about something they’d heard on the radio about how you know you’re hearing the voice of God if you have peace about it. I completely disagree. The radio announcers were wrapping God, and how He speaks to us, up.

As I look back over my years of writings and journals I realize that I habitually tied up everything neatly with a lesson, moral, Bible verse, truth, or nice neat little conclusion. If you do more prayer, Bible study, worship, (fill in the blank), then God will speak, “bless” (again, fill in the blank). Larry Crabb, in his book The Pressure’s Off, calls this the law of linearity: A + B = C.

The last several years have been a process of God putting that law of linearity to death.
Spiritual life…God…can’t be wrapped up.
Just when I think I’ve figured something out about Him, He throws in a wrench, messing up my pretty packaging. Just when I think I understand a passage or story from the Bible, He shakes up my notions.

No, our lives, our God, our Theology, our doctrines, can’t be tied up with no loose ends hanging out. As breathtaking as God, Scripture and His creation is, it simply cannot be packaged by us humans into neat little cliches, sayings, spiritualized self helps, choruses or moral lessons. Perusing Christian literature, studies and blogs and listening to some Christian music (both old & new), you would think that our God, with the proper theology, scripture reading, understanding & prayer, can be understood. You might get the impression that if we feast on a steady diet of God, we may not figure Him out completely, but we’ll certainly be able to categorize our knowledge and our experiences into lovely packages of understanding that will lead to clarity. A+B=C.

Often, we fool ourselves into thinking we do these things to know God better, when in fact we simply want to contain Him; to figure Him out; to discover His secrets; to somehow become mini-god’s. We use language to suggest that it’s all about God. But in reality we make it about us. Because what if you do everything you think you’re supposed to, and it doesn’t “work”. A+B=?? We’ve put the emphasis on our actions. We’ve turned God into an obligatory responder to our behavior.

Throughout the Bible, people misunderstand, misinterpret and misrepresent God.
Even Jesus’ own disciples didn’t understand what Jesus came to do and came to be. They assumed a King would overthrow the existing government. They assumed He would come with a sword. Peter even chastised Jesus when He said he’d have to suffer and die.

We’re so limited.
Despite all God’s given us, we don’t understand Him.
We try. Oh how we try.
We suffer under the delusion that “knowledge is power” as Francis Bacon contended.

My dear friend who’s faced more loss in her 35 years than most experience in a lifetime describes herself as a perpetual two year old with God. A toddler can’t possibly understand why they can’t play in the road or that the pain of a scraped knee won’t last forever, or that you can’t have candy all the time. And no amount of reasoning or explaining would help them understand. They’re not developmentally capable of it. And so we are with God.

No, done thinking I can figure out God and finished with tips and techniques to discover His will or hear His voice, I put myself and my understanding at His mercy. He reveals what He wants to reveal when He wants to reveal it.

So here I am, God. No agenda. No expectations that if I act a certain way, you’re obliged to respond in a predetermined manner.
No conclusion other than you are God and I am not.

God is God Steven Curtis Chapman
And the pain falls like a curtain
On the things I once called certain
And I have to say the words I fear the most
I just don’t know

And the questions without answers
Come and paralyze the dancer
So I stand here on the stage afraid to move
Afraid to fall, oh, but fall I must
On this truth that my life has been formed from the dust

God is God and I am not
I can only see a part of the picture He’s painting
God is God and I am man
So I’ll never understand it all
For only God is God

And the sky begins to thunder
And I’m filled with awe and wonder
‘Till the only burning question that remains
Is who am I

Can I form a single mountain
Take the stars in hand and count them
Can I even take a breath without God giving it to me
He is first and last before all that has been
Beyond all that will pass

[chorus]

Oh, how great are the riches of His wisdom and knowledge
How unsearchable for to Him and through Him and from Him are all things

So let us worship before the throne
Of the One who is worthy of worship alone

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