Do you like to do puzzles? My father was a master at doing puzzles. He had the patience to find the flat edged pieces first and then organize the rest by color. Actually, he had a great lifehack for puzzle assembly. He laid a science fair backboard on the table and assembled his puzzle on that. When he wanted to put the puzzle away, he would fold in the sides of the science fair board to keep everything secure.
I have to admit, I don’t have my father’s patience—or talent—for puzzles.
There was a time when I thought of God as a puzzle, a mystery to be solved. I thought if I read the Bible and went to church enough, I would get God.
Some people seem to really get God. They talk a lot about the rules of what it takes to be right with God. Usually, it turns out that only people who think like them and live like them (and vote like them) are “right” with God.
My journey with God has not led me to rules, it has led me to a life-giving relationship.
I thought I was on a journey to understand God more, but then I realized there is no way to figure God out. There will never be a point when I can say, “a ha! Thanks be to God, I’ve got it!” At least, not if “it” is a total understanding of God.
Instead of knowing more about God, I find myself knowing less, but feeling more deeply drawn into a relationship with the God who loves me.
I thought I wanted to know more, but it turns out what I needed was to be known.
“Remember, mystery is not something that you cannot understand—it is something that you can endlessly understand! There is no point at which you can say, ‘I’ve got it.’ Always and forever mystery gets you!”
God gets you. Once you know that, you can’t help but be transformed.
I’ve had moments of awareness and understanding. “A-ha” moments, but invariably Jesus takes it to another level. Jesus wants to leads us beyond answers, rules, and certainties.
Jesus wants to lead us right up the mountain, so to speak, where we can experience the glory of God (Luke 9:28‑36). In those mountaintop moments, we (like the Apostle Peter) say “Jesus, it is good for us to be here with you!” We may feel so close to God that we have a sense of what Moses felt like when his face was glowing from being in the presence of God (Exodus 34:29-35).
Trying to puzzle God out and get all the answers is such a common human problem that it’s the very first sin identified in the Bible.
Adam and Eve eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because the serpent tells them “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God” (Genesis 3:4). They thought the tree’s fruit could make them “wise” (Genesis 3:6). Spoiler Alert: It didn’t. We are told that it ripped a chasm in their relationship with God and each other.
It’s true with us, too. We seek information, as if God is a puzzle to be put together piece by piece. We regulate behavior as if our actions are the border pieces that hold the image of God together.
We carry on like that until Jesus takes us up the mountain and reveals how little we know.
Retired Methodist Bishop Will Willimon offers this in a sermon titled, Blessed Befuddlement:
“when we’ve finally figured something out, we say, ‘I got it.’ Got it! But what if that which you’re trying to understand (God) can never be gripped, grabbed, or seized by you? What if we’re not so much here … to ‘get’ God but rather here daring to expose ourselves to the possibility that … God might ‘get’ us?”
I’m beginning to understand that the puzzle I’ve been trying to put together isn’t God, it’s my self. Instead of knowing more about God and having all the answers, the best I can hope for is to be known by God and that’s more than good enough.
What about you? Are you on a journey for information or relationship? Have you encountered folks who talk a lot about the rules of what it takes to be “right” with God? What do you make of it? Tell me about it in the comments, in an e-mail, or on Facebook.
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