Letting Go Of Your Understanding Of God

God is the infinite, he is Absolute, and because of this, God is always mysterious to us. One of the great failures as Christians has been to try to narrow this mystery down to a point where we say we “understand” it. It’s not that God is unknowable, but it is in fact that God is endlessly knowable. The great task of Christian spirituality will be of letting go of this knowing, so we can begin to know more.

Sometimes we feel trapped in prayer because we don’t feel God. Or, sometimes we feel trapped in our understanding of God because we can’t reconcile a view of God. The real task of our spiritual journey is to understand that not only is God including your thoughts and your feelings, but he transcends them as well. Prayer and reflection are not meant to be an exhausting and defeating time, because God is bigger than our thoughts and bigger than our feelings. The real task is learning to let go of our desire to control God; rather than force God into our preconceived notions of how we experience him and we must allow God to work as God sees fit.

The work of the lifetime is learning to open up our minds, hearts, and spirits so that maybe then we can have eyes to see and ears to hear, as Jesus wants for us. If we can continue to open up these spaces and hunger for more knowing, then we will learn to live at home in ourselves, with others and with the world, because we will have found a greater capacity for the Christ that lives within us.


7 thoughts on “Letting Go Of Your Understanding Of God

  1. Joe Lenton says:

    Helpful thoughts, thanks. It also reminded me of ideas along the line of Karl Barth and others – that God is revealed yet paradoxically also concealed in Scripture, Christ, etc. By that, I understand that we can know something of God, something true, but yet this also falls short of the fullness of who God is because our minds cannot comprehend God truly as God is. It is perhaps a little like metaphors/similes – we might say someone is like a ray of sunshine in my life, but such a metaphor holds a tension between saying something true but also not really expressing the full truth. Maybe God’s revelation could be seen a bit like that? I think this crops up in Dave Tomlinson’s “The Post-Evangelical”?

    • Mike Friesen says:

      I agree Joe. There are sayings like, “Faith is LIKE a mustard seed.” Or, parables are telling us what God is like. Love it, and love that you are familiar with Karl Barth!

      • Joe Lenton says:

        Barth is, in my opinion, an inspirational theologian. His work is creative, interesting and well thought through, even if I don’t agree with every detail (or understand every detail!). It is also interesting that he found his formal theological training of little use when he became a pastor! Dealing with everyday issues and everyday people forced him to think in ways that ivory-tower study conditions at university don’t necessarily prepare you for. Saying that, some college courses these days are thankfully learning that lesson and being more practical and ensuring “ministry placements” to help academic study connect with real life. I found doing study by distance-learning forced me to figure out how to connect it with life pretty quickly or I wouldn’t have been able to talk to friends about what I was doing as they weren’t fellow-academics in an isolated college bubble.

  2. Phil Wood says:

    There’s certainly something about that moment when we realise for the first time that our orthodoxy is ambiguous. It is both helpful (but limited) and potentially idolatrous: ‘God rid me of God’ (Meister Eckhart). My appreciation of mysticism began many years ago but it took me a while to step over the edge and let go. That sort of language gives the Fundamentalists goose bumps. It provokes anger and makes martyrs. It’s also lifegiving – a journey with God. Shalom, Phil

  3. Nics Cahill says:

    Beautiful writing Mike – letting go of our expectations, and letting God flood into our lives, every part. Thank you as always.

  4. Yep. One of the reasons it’s so hard to get a handle on who God is is that when you define something, you necessarily limit it, and it’s usually a mistake to put limits on God.

  5. Mike, I love this post! It speaks so well to the journey I’ve just embarked on over the past few months. It took me a while to realize that my desire to know things had led me toward always trying to understand God and how he worked, to the point of being shaken to my core when things didn’t make sense. Only recently have I realized that knowing is not the end game. The conversation along the way is the point – the back and forth with God.

    Like the Peter Enns interview I told you about, when we can look at the conversation as the point we develop a relationship with scripture and a relationship with God through scripture and this is what makes it the *living* word of God.

    I couldn’t have done this kind of exploration earlier in my walk, because it takes a certain solidarity of faith, but I’ve discovered that to learn more about God, as you’ve said, I have to let go of what I know to be true and be willing to accept I could be wrong – or at least not all right. If I think I know an answer, there’s no need to dig deeper. But if I ask questions – big ones – questions you might be afraid of getting thrown out of the church over – then I start to learn things. For instance, in study a few weeks ago, without even thinking about it, the question “what if Jesus wasn’t such a big deal?” crossed my mind. My eyes got big and I flinched a little, waiting for the lightning bolt, but instead, I felt God’s pleasure in every cell of my body. Pretty cool stuff.

    By being willing to ask the question instead of just assuming the answer, God was able to show me more deeply why I believe to be true is really true.

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