Oftentimes in Western Culture, we equate proximity with familiarity. For example, I have no idea how my car works (not really) but I feel as though I have some familiarity with it because I’m in it every day. So, when my mechanic explains to me what is wrong with my car, I’m embarrassed because this thing so close to me physically is actually alien to me; I equated proximity with familiarity. This can happen with anything, and I think this happens with our idea of God.
We are so surrounded by churches and religious talk that we sometimes assume we actually know things about God ( proximity) that we do not ( familiarity). I’d like to take a little time to address a few of these misbeliefs. Maybe if we can come to certain realities about the Creator of the universe, then our spirituality, like our cars, might make a little more sense. To start, let’s turn to a very familiar passage that people use when talking about how ‘God works mysterious ways.’
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
Now, all this is to say: God is functioning within a huge system (some can argue that God is a huge systemworking on a level that we can’t see; we can only conceive how it might be possible for such a level to exist. If we look at the statement “as the heavens are higher than the earth” we have to realize that the reference for height is the earth, and the heavens are mind-bogglingly huge and expand infinitely. So, basically comparing our thoughts with God’s is like comparing zero with infinity.
Mathematically, we’re talking about a change in the number of dimensions; that is, whereas we’re used to working with a two-dimensional plane, like a stick figure, God is in a whole different direction, up. He’s three dimensional, he’s like us looking at a stick figure, who can’t see inside its stick figure house and can’t get through a thick black line. But he can reach around things that seem solid to the stick figure without touching any walls because he can move in a direction the stick figure can’t phantom. Where the stick figure sees zero, he sees infinity.
We are three dimensional beings. Which means God is at least four-dimensional. When I tell you to move a foot in any direction, you have 6 choices: left, right, up, down, forward, backward. If God does the same thing, He has at least 8 choices, all of yours, and then in a direction that you can’t see or realize, *another* up, a *different* down. For the Science Fiction fan, He can stroll through parallel dimensions as easy as we stroll down the street.
What is impossible to us… is just a direction to Him.
But space, at least as far as science knows, is a function of time and vice versa. And when we look at God’s relationship in time we should probably start with the premise of the Bible:
In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.
So the beginning suggests time, and moreover, the first time. Time starting. You know, the beginning. And while we could think to interpret this as the beginning of this particular story, the beginning of any aspect of creation has such a beginning. When space and time starts, God is already there. Meaning He hails from outside of space and time. To Him, they are constructs, while for us they are the foundation of reality.
I consider myself a pretty smart and a highly imaginative guy, but I don’t know what reality means outside of space and time. I can’t conceive it, I can’t visit there. Even my language works against me. Outside space is a contradiction, not just an oxymoron, but a logical impossibility. ‘Before time began’ has a similar problem. The age-old question “Where did God come from?” is a trick question. Don’t fall for it! We are too limited to even explain such a notion, even if we could conceive it. Which we can’t.
So is it any wonder when we see Him part the Red Sea, turn water into wine and so on we cry ‘magic?’ We argue whether it is scientifically possible when in fact, science is based on observation and hypothesis of whole potential branches of science we haven’t seen yet. As the science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke suggested, “any sufficiently advanced technology becomes indistinguishable from magic (to an undeveloped race).”
Now, I don’t want you to get the idea that God is walking around with an iPhone Infinity Plus 1, pushing buttons to turn water into wine, but I do want you to understand that just because something doesn’t make sense to you, doesn’t mean it doesn’t make perfect sense. It’s just that our sense is imperfectly inferior. Welcome to humanity.
And while it makes perfect sense logically that there are things we don’t understand, it is also very uncomfortable. In part, because it destroys our ego. Despite knowing better, the idea that we are the center of our universe is very appealing and seductive. After all, that’s how we perceive the world, with ourselves as the viewer, narrator, and chief storyteller. Not only that, we perceive and interpret in a way which cannot be attacked or undermined. There is no room for a sense of control, to feel sovereign unto myself, when there is a Being whose Sovereignty not only dwarfs my own but cannot be contested. It leaves me feeling powerless against God and what He says. That’s not fun. That’s not fun at all.
However, it is only in this context, the context given explicitly by the Word of God, that we can actually appreciate what God says for all its worth. If God says you are loved, or forgiven or going to live forever, well… there’s nothing anyone can do about that, either.
Next time we’ll talk about whether God is good or evil or something else entirely. I know a lot of people struggle with that, at least at times. I have too, and I can’t wait to share my story with you.
But for now, if God feels far away and foreign to you…good. He should. The powerful thing, the beautiful thing is…He is steadily trying to get close to you. He is already familiar with you. He already has a plan for you. You just have to open your three-dimensional door and let Him expand your universe beyond what you could ask or think. Because impossible is just a direction you didn’t know existed. God is waiting to show you…