“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” Isaiah 6:3
I remember as a younger Christian wrestling with the many paradoxes of God. How could he be transcendent and immanent? How could he be love and still consume sinners? How could he be sovereign over all things and yet allow evil to exist? How was God impassible (not moved by emotion) and yet affectionate toward His people? To say the least, I have always been baffled by God. Early in my Christian walk that was something that used to frustrate me. I felt I was supposed to understand it all. In my mind, I felt like my relationship with God was limited by my feeble understanding of Him.
As I grew older I began to understand that I would never understand God fully but that didn’t mean I couldn’t know Him truly. But, even as comforting as that was, it was no less terrifying. I realized that I had wanted to experience God like children experience a sprinkler at the park. They get to enjoy all the wetness without any danger of drowning. Sprinklers are great when you’re young, but there is a reason you don’t see adults running through them.
The ocean, however, is nothing like that. Its beauty is captivating and its dangers plentiful. Hidden currents swirl beneath the surface and thunderous waves crash down a warning to onlookers that entry is not for the faint of heart. On the shoreline it never escapes you that you’re staring at something so much bigger than yourself, something that could consume you in an instant, something containing an unseen world of predators, chasms, and mountains. Looking at it seems simple enough, but contemplating all that is there, plumbs depths and boundaries beyond your imagination. It is an entire world of mystery in which the unseen is no less real or scary.
This was my faith. I wanted to experience God and know him, but without the danger. I wanted to splash around in His love but without the ferocity of his power. As I got older I realized surfing a crashing wave was far more exhilarating than splashing in a fountain and snorkeling among the fish more tantalizing than stomping in a puddle. Sailing the wind brought freedoms that could never be experienced in a pool. As one theologian says, “Make-believe fun is safer than mystifying joy” and so we continue to make God a splash pad deity rather than the terrifying, joy-giving God that he is. He is the God you can’t imagine and yet he has made himself known. He is completely independent and otherly and yet he is near and known. Fall at the feet of his mystery and cower and then lift your eyes to behold the whirlwind of his holy and intimate love. He will be praised whether we are part of it or not.