Flying free

Photo: flattop341 on Flickr via Creative Commons

Photo: flattop341 on Flickr via Creative Commons

Disclaimer: Posts in this series will be my attempts to process what I’m reading in the books of Peter Rollins. They are in no way representative of his actual writings, in this case how (not) to speak of god . Also spoilers, sweetie.

Accepting that everything I know to be true about God is a subjective construct can feel a little, well, nuclear. It’s jarring, having been a Christian for twenty or so years now, to settle into an approach that is so utterly lacking in certainty. Yet, it’s equally upsetting to just now be coming to this realization. Of course everything I think about God is based on perception. How could it not be? The more difficult reality to accept is that no one else’s understanding is any more sure. So if God, the hyperpresent yet wholly unfathomable, cannot be comprehended, what’s the point?

Rollins assures me that this deconstruction is not ultimately destructive. I don’t stop believing what I believe about God. The point, rather, is that the way I believe is to change. The journey itself becomes a kind of destination (pg 6), the very act of seeking is to have found (pg 53), the acceptance of this a/theism becomes a wound that heals as I search for God in the void (pg 55).

He likens our relationship to this God to that of an infant and her mother (pg 17). I cannot grasp that which holds and sustains me, but my need and desire are not diminished by my lack of comprehension. Accepting this unknowable reality opens me to true experience with the divine. “The truth in Christianity is not defined but experienced (pg 60).

So…God is unknowable yet permeating me and everything around me. My understanding of God is a construct that can help me grapple with God but shouldn’t be mistaken for Truth because there is no such thing insofar as humanity can wrap into words. I can encounter God despite my poverty of knowledge, and the point of faith becomes not what I believe but how I believe. As I encounter God, the way I believe changes regardless of the what.

What is this way? No real surprise here, it’s love. Love becomes the full summary of the attainable knowledge of God available to us all. This is the lens through which I read Scripture (pg 65). Faith means living out of an excess of love rather than a statement of theological beliefs. Love is the fulness of God, not merely an aspect of God. Morality is not determined by some ethical creed, but by love. While our understanding of love will always be limited and flawed, it becomes the sole indicator of God in the world.

As I surrender my need to understand God, I am open to encountering God in a transforming way. I become the site of God’s interaction with our world. I exist as the temple of God – where divinity and humanity meet. I become incarnational. And where God is present, people will be drawn. “In a world where people believe they are not hungry, we must not offer food but rather an aroma that helps them desire the food that we cannot provide (pg 44).”

When I stop telling people what to believe about God, and give myself instead to encountering God and being transformed, maybe they will find their own paths to journey toward God. As I commit myself to a life of generosity, peace, genuine purity (not some lackluster repressive version of it), mercy, active kindness, maybe I’ll begin to comprehend what it means to be salt in a world that strives so much to deny its thirst.

Then, internally, I commit myself to pursuing an iconic approach to God. “To treat something as an icon is to view particular words, images, or experiences as aids in contemplation of that which cannot be reduced to words, images, or experience (pg 40).” I continue to read, worship, pray, participate in liturgy. I make space in my life to search for God in story and images, the rumble of thunder and the mist of a fountain on my face. I receive words and impressions with gladness and gratitude, without the pressure of checking them against a list of acceptable messages from a clearly defined god. I’m relearning how to engage things like liturgy and worship music and Scripture, not as a kind of kaleidoscope in which I will find God, but rather as a telescope through which I can catch glimpses of God.

Now, I kind of sort of want to read the Bible again. Because the pressure to know is off. Prayer, for the first time in years, seems like a worthwhile way to spend my time. Because the pressure to hear is off. Worship becomes a practice of devotion and an invitation to encounter. Because the pressure to experience is off. Love truly does become the answer to all questions and the only obligation. Because the pressure to perform is off.

It’s amazing, how light a total lack of surety can feel.

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1 Comment

  1. May 21, 2015 at 8:15 am

    […] a construct of my own making. It’s another to say that I am learning to approach God as icon rather than idol. We take this new understanding of faith to a whole new level when we begin to […]


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