God in a Box

“God known of the heart” gives a better account of the character of our spiritual experience than “God guessed at by the brain”; that the loving intuition is more fruitful and more trustworthy than the dialectic proof.

Underhill, Evelyn (2009-12-12). Mysticism (p. 33). Evinity Publishing Inc. Kindle Edition.

“Remember: if you want to make progress on the path and ascend to the places you have longed for, the important thing is not to think much but to love much, and so to do whatever best awakens you to love.”

Starr, Mirabai; Teresa of Avila (2004-07-06). The Interior Castle (Kindle Locations 916-917). Riverhead. Kindle Edition.

You know? I love to come to the banks of this river and spend time with her. We spend a lot of time together. She is like a good friend who never ceases to fascinate me.

It's a gorgeous day to sit in the sun down there on the bank, don't you think? Would you like to join me? But first, do you see that stick over there ... the one about three-fingers thick? Would you grab it for me?

Perfect. Thanks. Here. Have a seat.

Feel the warm sand?

The soft banks of this river feel like outstretched arms  inviting me to approach her, to come closer, to melt into her warm, soft embrace and become a small part of who she is.

Do you feel that too?


Do you hear her voice?

[Whittle, whittle.] 

I was thinking ... I love my brain. I love my ability to reason, to dissect, to deconstruct, to reassemble. I survive in this world because I have an innate ability to assign attributes to things, to classify them, to put them into neat little packages of understanding ...  into drawers of discernment.

[Carve, carve.]

But, God is asking me to take Him out of the file drawer and get to know Him directly. His Holy Spirit is asking me to take Her out of my head and let Her live, abide, take up residence ... to set up Her tent and stay awhile ... in my heart.

[Chip, chip.]

How do I know the persons of God? How do I know the Holy Spirit living within me? Do I just study the Book and try to figure it out?

Do I try to reach God along a winding path through a linked logical landscape ...

or just fall into His arms?

Do I embark on an arduous journey to discover the mysteries of the Holy Spirit ...

or just submit myself to fall under Her jurisdiction?

[Shape, carve.]

If I desire to get to know this river, do I scoop up a bucket of it and take it home with me? Do I study its wetness, its ability to make plants grow, to put out fires? Do I measure its temperature and compute its density? Do I just sit and watch it evaporate?

[Chisel, chisel.]

Of course not. A river in a bucket is no longer a river.

Although I see the value of reading through all I can find about where this river came from and where it is going, about its history and the people who have interacted with it in the past, I can never get to know it that way. It is sitting in a bucket. It is not going anywhere. It is no longer moving, changing.

It is no longer alive ...

[Scrape, scrape.]

... and likewise, God in a box is no longer God.

[Sand, sand. Polish, polish.]

If I try to shape God in my image ... as soon as I try to define God ...

[Buff, buff. There!]

I create an idol. I create a nothing-god out of Isaiah's block of wood.

In order to get to know a river, I need to live with it, sleep next to it, learn its names, listen to it, taste it, follow where it goes, discover its seasons, read its currents, swim in it. I need the "it" of the river to become "her". I need to touch her ... drink her in with all my senses ... make her a part of who I am ... and share her with friends like you.

The same is true with getting to know God. I need to let Him be who He is and who He will be – who He will be in me and who He will be in the lives of those He touches through me.

Every time I think I have Him under control, that I know how he can do MY will, that I know who He is and what He looks like, He reminds me that the image in my head is not Him anymore. He reminds me that even though I have His Spirit within me, I do not have Him in my pocket.

And yet ...

My Lord encourages me to keep taking my best shot to describe the delicate interlacing of His beauty, the thunder of His power, the breadth of His wisdom, the depth of His Love – and to fail giddily with each attempt. That is the joy of praising Him. As David discovered so long ago composing songs of wonder and praise for a God who is beyond all understanding – a Psalm to God is a joyously futile exercise at using our limited language to endeavor to describe the ineffable.

My joy is borne of a flurry of passionate, creative depiction ... not of a stolid, static definition.

God is discovered and known by energetic Love, not passive knowledge. I can learn all manner of things about God through study and contemplation. I can only come to know God through Love.

God invites me, through His Spirit, to get to know Him ... to live with Him, sleep with Him, listen to Him, read His Word, and follow Him wherever He leads me.

Hear the words of Isaiah: "Have you not known? Have you not heard? ... his understanding is unsearchable."

Not merely unfathomable, but unsearchable. Don't even start. Don't even try to look for an understanding of how God thinks or what He might do next.

God is. God will be. “I am who I am,” says the burning bush. “I am who I will be.” It's the ultimate put-off. “Don't try to figure me out,” He says. “Just love me … absorb my love for you ... and pass it on to the ones I love.”

And yet, He keeps inviting me to write, and to smile-and-cry each time I fail to capture even a glimmer of the Divine Light who He is and the Beacon of Light who He is becoming in my life.

It's that simple.

And … why does this always seem so hard?

Here. Throw this stupid stick as far as you can into the river and let's watch it float away. 


Now, let's go for a swim.