1/19/05

The view

As strange as it sounds - the farther I travel from God, the more incredible the view seems to be. I have been thinking a great deal about what it means to journey from God - and I have two current musings.



The first is rooted in the imagery of space/time. I imagine God as the sun and myself one of the bodies in orbit around him. I imagine myself to be in an eliptical orbit much like the planets. When I was orbiting close to God, I wrote about and tried to describe the view from that vantage point. Now that my orbit is taking me away from God (relatively speaking) I am writing about and hoping to describe a new, more distant view.



A second musing is rooted in the story of Jonah and the big fish. When I was in graduate school, I had an Old Testament class that challenged me to think way outside the evagelical box I'd been using to frame my Christian world view. My professor was a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar and very knowledgable. One of my more memorable projects was a lengthy research paper on the story of Jonah and the big fish. The scholarship I used for my research unanimously concluded that this, like many stories in the Old Testament, was an allegorical story to help a specific people at a specific point in history make meaning of what was happening to them. Two things struck me when I did the research. First, that Jonah represents that part of all of us who are stuck in our own way of understanding the meaning of our lives regardless of what challenges us to think differently. Second, that Jonah, even after the most extraordinary experience, is reported at the end to still be angry. An ending that is intolerable to our way of thinking but appears to work very well for the audience who first heard the story told.



Evangelical Christianity teaches its followers to follow God faithfully and to obey Him because of His love and sacrifice on our behalf. It then teaches disciples to imagine the world through God's eyes while rejecting our own view of things. In other words, not my way/will but yours Lord. This is not an inherently bad teaching and helped me begin to imagine what unconditional love, compassion, mercy, and social justice might look like if selfish me weren't in the way. But the teaching is incomplete and this takes me back to my musings.



Abraham Joshua Heschel says that we cannot know God in His reality - we can only know Him in our own (my paraphrase). If this is true, then we must know what the view of God from our own vantage point looks like and we must know how to talk about it in our own terms. In other words, our view of God changes as we hurtle through life on that eliptical path. For that matter, our views of many things change. Is God from a distance any less God? No more than the sun is any less the sun from Pluto's orbit as it is from Earth's. But Pluto as the ninth and most remote planet (if it had a voice to describe the sun) would have a very different sense of the sun than less remote planets.



Because Evangelical Christianity has determined that all truth about God, the human condition, and its remedy has been revealed in the scripture - followers have not permitted themselves to live creative and imaginative lives. This has resulted in a great scarcity of new stories for new times - can you imagine being the author of an allegorical tale like the Jonah story for our times? I have been trying to let myself do just that.



I must believe that the long narrative that describes my own life's journey (and spans several decades) is a unique, wonderful, and even one of a kind story. I must believe this in order to hope that what I say, do and become will make a difference in the lives of those I touch every day. More than wanting to be proud that I left God's handprint on someone's life, I want to be shameless about that fact that I left my own handprint and that God smiled.





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