What God is Like (Musings on the character of God) #1

I wonder…

I wonder about God a lot. I used to wonder if he existed, but since I got that settled (to my complete satisfaction), my wonder is now of a different sort. “Wonder” itself has a number of connotations, some of which are part of the kind of wonder I have about God. There’s wonder that includes some frustration with it, another is more of a curious sort of wonder, and then there’s the kind that connotes total marvel. My wondering about God includes all three.

To be honest, sometimes my wonder about him is of the frustrated sort. It’s when he acts in a way I don’t understand or appreciate in the immediate that I wonder about the wisdom of his decisions. I often get that sorted out in my mind, but even when I don’t, I shelve it for the time being and continue trusting him in spite of my frustrations. At other times my wondering is more of a spiritual inquisitiveness. Sometimes I can be annoyingly curious about God’s Word and his ways. I wonder what a certain passage of the Bible means or I am curious to understand an action he took or decided not to take. The last sense in which I wonder about God is the sense in which I’m amazed and blown away about him! What a “Wonder” he is! When I think about it, this might not be so different from the other two types of wonder, and might, in actuality, include them both. Bottom-line – he’s pretty “wonderful” – which is an interesting word when you think about it, since we’re the ones who are full of wonder.

This relatively brief essay includes musings of all three sorts of wonder. If you read it through you might notice a hint of frustration in my voice, which I trust comes short of petulant unbelief or any disrespect for God. You’ll probably also pick up that I’m still quite curious about the God in whom I believe. I certainly don’t have all the answers about him, and sometimes it feels like I have even less than I used to have. I want to know more about what he’s like – how he thinks, what he feels, why he does what he does and doesn’t do what he doesn’t do. And then hopefully you’ll see – and maybe even catch for yourself – some of the marvel, the amazement that I have about the God of the Bible!

Tiny holes…

So, I’m going to tell you “What God is like.” Sounds pretentious, right? I heard a story of a teacher that had instructed her 2nd grade class to draw something of their own choosing. She looked over the shoulder of one of the little girls and asked, “Julie, what are you drawing?”

It’s a picture of God.

“OK, but no one knows what God looks like.”

They will when I get finished.

I can only draw as clear a picture of God as I have to date; and I have no illusion that I contain in my puny mind a particularly large percentage of what can be known of the God of the Bible. We’re pretty much like tadpoles swapping stories of blue whales, ants discussing the elephant, or pots pondering the potter!

“We, like the Pharisees in the Gospels,

can never underestimate our power

to be wrong about God

and God’s view of things.”

Brian McLaren

I want to limit the picture that I draw in this essay to some of the things that I have come to believe about God’s character. I won’t be talking so much about his capabilities, his “Omni’s” – Omniscience, Omnipotence, and Omnipresence. And I won’t be providing any sort of study about God’s essence – that he exists as one God in three Persons, that he’s eternal, transcendent, or sovereign, etc. I’m not going to try to dissect him like a frog and study his “parts.” I simply want to limit my observations to the topic of his personality – what he’s like, what kind of Person he is.

The starry night sky seemed like a black canvas with holes poked through it so that the light shining on the other side could be seen glistening from the other side as I looked through my friend’s telescope. I imagined this as the way God exists in relation to his world. He’s the Light behind the thick shroud that encompasses the earth, and into this shroud he cuts small openings so that we earthlings can get glimpses of his brilliance. We “see” God and know him only through these tiny gaps in the shroud. Though he’s the brilliance surrounding our world, we experience him only as much as he chooses to punch these holes. Of course, our decision to look up has something to do with it too. And to my understanding, it’s not like we see him as much as we experience his outshining through the tiny slits. This is probably for our own protection.

Our progressive understanding of him begins with one or two pinpricks, then, as our revelation increases, the holes increase in diameter and other slices appear in the shroud. As the stars seem like they have been placed in patterns, which we call “constellations,” God leaves clues about the way he is as these holes form discernible shapes. I’m convinced that the Eternal wants us to know him as best as we can!

[This is the first of quite a few musings on the Character of God. I hope you’ll be interested to follow along and share some feedback – positive and negative – along the way.]

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