“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)
I am not really a questioner by nature. More of a rule-follower actually. Usually I need to be challenged to think outside the status quo instead of being a challenger myself. Which is why I believe I liked the following section so much from Madeleine L’Engle’s book, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art.
“Now, we are often taught that it is unfaithful to question traditional religious beliefs, but I believe that we must question them continually – not God, not Christ, who are at the center of our lives as believers and creators – but what human beings say about God and about Christ; otherwise, like those of the church establishment of Galileo’s day, we truly become God’s frozen people. Galileo’s discoveries did nothing whatsoever to change the nature of God; they threatened only man’s rigid ideas of the nature of God … The great artists keep us from frozenness, from smugness, from thinking the truth is in us, rather than in God, in Christ our Lord. They help us to know that we are often closer to God in our doubts than in our certainties, that it is all right to be like the small child who constantly asks: Why? Why? Why?”
The last line of this quote reminds me of Jeremiah 29:13 which says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” And sometimes we can find Him in the most unexpected places, as I think Madeleine is trying to say here. But also, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He doesn’t change but the way we view Him, the way we worship Him and the way we interact with Him sometimes does.
God desires us to seek after Him, to ponder, to wrestle with issues. After all, He named his chosen nation after Jacob, someone who wrestled with God face to face, as seen in Genesis 32:28, “Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.’”
I like what Madeleine says regarding man’s rigid ideas about the nature of God being threatened. I am just now beginning to realize that I often fall into this category. And I am also starting to understand that, as Isaiah 55:9 says, God is bigger than I am usually able to comprehend. Therefore, I should not become frozen and smug by thinking the truth is in me and my own little view of God, as Madeline puts it here.
It is natural to want to have the best and brightest ideas. However, even the greatest minds don’t get it quite right in their view of God. And God surely knows this about us as seen from Isaiah 41:14, “Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob, little Israel, do not fear, for I myself will help you,” declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.”
This verse shows that God recognizes the smallness within us all but doesn’t leave us stranded there. No, God call Himself our Redeemer and offers us help and hope in the midst of it all. I appreciate this about Him. Which takes me back to the whole idea about truly wrestling and seeking after God. By doing so, our inflexible thinking about spiritual matters can be vanquished and a new, freeing sense of openness with God can be found. I could use some of that in my life!
May we learn together how to change from being a rigid rule-follower to one who curiously questions the traditional beliefs of our day in order that we may truly “be open to God and not what man says about God” (Walking on Water).