‘They must be massive’…carries on playing…’to hold the world I mean’…I know T is learning about space at school, so I’m wondering how it fits in with that, so I ask ‘what must be massive?’, ‘God’s hands Mummy’.
I have had to prepare a 5 minute presentation for Yr 10’s this week:’what do I think God is like? simply explain the Trinity’. No pressure! I was part of a panel made up of other ministers in the town, each of us had a different, equally impossible topic to explore. I think it was a success overall, though I’m not sure any of us quite stayed within our allotted 5 minutes! But of course my planning and then debriefing has opened up many conversations with my own three too.
How hard it is to find language adequate to talk about God, and how limited our imaginations.
The conversation T was having with me early on in the week brought home to me how often we perceive God using the tools of our experience and the world we know, we find it difficult to think outside our well trodden patterns of thought. Yes hands must have to be very large to hold the whole world as the song teaches us as children. (And now having had this conversation with her, something she said over Christmas makes heaps more sense – walking to school near the end of term she just suddenly said, ‘its God not Jesus who holds the whole world isn’t it’. I had immediately tried to launch into an explanation of the Trinity then, but looking back maybe I should have been chatting with her about the size of babies hands and the truth inherent in the metaphor about God’s all encompassing compassion as well.)
The instinctive literal interpretation is very understandable. I was asking B if she found it easy to think about what God must be like. ‘No, not really. What the Bible says about him is confusing. He could be something like the wind, or a giant or something walking about everywhere.’ As she talks I’m thinking it must seem a bit like a box of jigsaw pieces that don’t look as though they should fit together at all. Paradox and mystery.
One of the things we have been talking about is how scary it is to think about things we don’t fully understand, or even have words to help us think it through. Sometimes the mystery is quite overwhelming, intimidating even. We catch a glimpse and suddenly realise we don’t have any useful points of reference to contrast or compare with; it’s uncomfortable.
Mine has this experience I think when we watched a video clip with them that showed someone playing the piano and singing quite freestyle worship, and with them another voice could be heard, an angel’s voice singing in harmony with him. A sound quite different from human singing but perfectly completing it. It frightened them to be honest, and Andrew took time to talk it through with them and explain that God was love and would never send anything to us to terrify or hurt. And that the guy in the video clip had been strengthened, and so encouraged by the experience. We talked about it again on the walk home from school after the year 10 lessons I had been in for. We all agreed it was really hard to find words to describe what we had heard, as ‘deep as earth’ was one suggestion, another that it sounded like ‘forever’, or that it was simply ‘strong’.
We also watched some testimonies this week of people who had had a dream or vision of Jesus without knowing anything about him or his life story, and who had later discovered that the one they saw was Jesus, and the things he showed them and said to them were the same as things recorded in the Bible, and how they had been so changed they had followed – often at great personal cost. We were so amazed by the way God had spoken into their lives, and had that same feeling of awe/discomfort at the incredible mystery of God and how he seeks to encounter us, powerfully, with gentleness and love.
These experiences stretch us, stretch us outside our familiar patterns of thinking, open us up somehow to glimpse more of who God is, to dare to sit with the discomfort of mystery and paradox in order to more fully know and be known.