As a child who grew up in the Lutheran church, the benediction has always stuck with me. Based on Philippians 4:7, it ends with “…And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I remember thinking about that particular part of the benediction specifically: A God whose peace is beyond anything we can understand. This was always curious to me since we seemed to have Him quite figured out in every other way. We seemed to know where He was (and He was always a male), what He liked or didn’t like, who He was judging, which things He considered sins, what types of things really pissed Him off, and who He was surely sending to hell for eternity. So why is it that we admit that God is beyond our understanding one moment, but pretend to have Him/Her/It all figured out the next?
For Christians, we have the Hebrew Scriptures to refer to. Other religions also look to their sacred texts to provide them some idea of who God is. Ultimately, no matter how deep we dive into our bible, we can only know so much. This is partly because God plays coy with us right from the start. In Exodus 3:14, Moses asks God straight up who He is. God responds by saying, “YHVH.” Most of us grew up with the understanding that this translates to, “I am who I am.” However, many modern Hebrew scholars actually say a far closer translation would be, “is was, will be” or “I will be who I will be.” From the very start, God tells Moses that He is beyond our mortal comprehension. Christian philosopher/theologian Paul Tillich described God as, “the ground of all being.” God as Being itself – outside of space, time, and creation.
So how, then, is it that we are so arrogant to think that we have God nailed down? How could we even begin to ascribe human attributes to the ultimate mystery? When we think of God in this way, previous descriptions of God seem not only silly, but inadequate. To confine him to our human sense of justice or retribution, our limited ability to forgive, our conditional love, and any restrictions that result from our own human egos seem childlike and absurd. Once we let go of these very human notions of what we think God should be, and allow Him the infinite space to work and move, will we finally be free to explore a faith that is no longer claustrophobic, but one that is filled with endless possibilities. We allow God to be God in its fullest expression. A version of God that is free to embrace its endless creation filled with mystery, diversity, life, and most importantly love.