C.S. Lewis calls it “the God-shaped vacuum.” Something in us longs to know God. The created wants to know the creator.
And while God makes himself known to us in a thousand different ways, he remains mysterious.
All our lives we organize religion around the tension between a transcendent, all-powerful God and a personal, intimate God. The Catholic church has historically focused on helping us enter into the mystery and transcendence of God. The Reformation moved the emphasis back to a personal God who made us and wants a relationship with us.
Our hearts cry out within us to know and be known by God. We can go through long seasons seeking him and wondering if he cares. God promises that “You’ll seek me and find me when you seek me with your whole heart.” (Jer. 29:13).
We want a dialogue, yet when we see dialogue between God and man in the Bible, humans are overwhelmed by God’s presence.
- God has to hide Moses in a rock cleft to protect him from his presence.
- Job, a man struggling with the issue of great loss, is blown away by God’s transcendence.
- Peter, James, and John see Jesus transfigured by God’s presence.
- Paul is knocked off his horse by the brilliant light of God’s presence.
- John writes about fantastical “living creatures” who live in God’s presence and worship him.
It’s a paradox that this God who created the universe, who inhabits the vast reaches of space, who fashioned the great supernovas with a mere thought, should bend down so low as to connect with us or respond to our requests.
Many of us who are not from the Catholic tradition, sensing our need to be reminded of God’s mystery, miss those reminders in our church services. We could do with a little more incense, the grandeur of a cathedral, perhaps the vestments of a priest. They may be atmospherics to some, but others of us feel the need for reminders of a God who has been dumbed down by a culture that has made religion overly familiar.
Once I dreamed that I was a paper bag and God put me to his mouth and blew into me. I exploded outward to the point of bursting – a feeling so overwhelming in my dream that I woke up with a start, my heart pounding. I often think about God that way. I can’t contain him and need to be repeatedly reminded that “his ways are not my ways.”
I wonder about people’s experience in this regard. Do you find yourself needing to connect with the reality of God’s vastness – his awesome mystery – more than you do? How do you do that?