I remember a time when I was serving on the staff of a large church and sitting in my office. I was going through some e-mail when I overheard people talking in the main office. I got up and stepped into the other room because the conversation was about a member of our congregation who had cancer and had just undergone an important medical procedure. I had spent a good deal of time visiting with this man and praying for him. The news wasn’t very good; the cancer had returned. Sadness and frustration quickly overwhelmed me as I walked back into my office. I sat down and started to go back to my work, but I couldn’t. I was angry. I put my hands on my head and closed my eyes and in frustration said, “Why this God? What is the point? Help me to understand. Help me to trust you.” I continued praying for this man and his family, and after a while felt enough peace to go back to my work.
As a follower of Jesus I do profess to have a relationship with God that is interactive, personal, and life giving. However, I do want to make it clear that I don’t have God figured out, and that I can’t explain why God does and doesn’t do certain things. Some people talk like their perspective and God’s are one and the same: page for page, line for line, down to every punctuation point. I am sold on the fact that God does communicate with us rather like we talk to each other on the cell phone, and that we can really know much of God’s perspective. For my part, I’d feel confident in saying that my perspective and God’s are joined on a book level; most of the chapters, and maybe even a few pages. I’m not confident enough to say that I understand God on the sentence and punctuation point level.
The amazing truth is that God is interested in coming down to our level of understanding. In the past when I used to make regular visits to a preschool ministry, I’d walk into a class and get down on the floor and play with the kids. I figured the best way for me to connect with the kids was by getting down to their level, playing with the blocks and other toys. I don’t think it would have been effective for me to stand at my full height, look down at them, and speak to them in fancy theological language about how God cares for them. God has taken the same approach with you and me. God is always looking for ways to come into the experience of our lives and connect with us in ways that we can understand. The punch line of spirituality happens when you realize that God is to be found equally present within the echoing chambers of an ancient cathedral and within the playroom full of scattered blocks and toys.