[Pinnate Venation, PC Adrian Kranz]
God is bigger than that.
As I’m looking back at 2017, breathing in the evergreen scent from our tree that helps me know it’s Advent now, and pondering how I hope to see God move in 2018, this is my best summary: God is biggger. This is what I’ve been missing in my struggles and this is what I need to remember moving forward.
I’ve never in my life been more miserable about the political landscape in the US than I’ve felt this year.
God is bigger than that.
I am grieved, scared, tortured at choices some people I love have been making. I’ve been losing hope.
God is bigger than that.
I’m questioning whether what I do matters, whether my life is bearing enough fruit, whether I will ever get anywhere with this writing gig.
God is bigger than that.
Ironically, we’re in Advent and thus celebrating God’s being tiny, the smallest God has ever been. God-in-Mary’s-Womb small. Somehow still God Omnipotent, God Omniscient, and God Omnipresent, yet for a moment the size a baby is in utero when first conceived. That’s tiny. That’s dust-speck small.
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]It’s funny how God’s having been smaller reinforces for me how God is bigger[/pullquote]
God was tiny so that he could enter into human history and do what Creator God Omnipotent could not do. This isn’t that trick question “Can God make a rock so big God cannot lift it?” God could now look us in the eye with a human eye. God could tell us he loves us with a human voice. God could touch the sick woman, the leprous man, the demon-possessed, the hungry, and the outcast with human hands.
The God who was invisible to human eyes became visible. God didn’t become more real when Jesus was born but God became more with us, with us in a different manner than was possible before. God was pretty darned “with us” already and then in Jesus God became more so. Walking around and talking with us is more with us. Refugee baby in Egypt is more with us. Handing bread and wine to his friends to be shared as his own physical body and blood that is broken for them, for us, that is more with us.
“Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.”
It’s funny how God’s having been smaller reinforces for me how God is bigger. Because I know God’s character through Jesus, I know that God is both powerful and compassionate. Because I know Jesus took human abuse, did not retaliate, and then rose from the dead, I know God forgives my evil and can heal what is twisted in my heart.
When I respond to my problems with “God is bigger,” of course I mean more than size.* I mean, “God is greater than that problem, God has both the power and the willingness to overcome what feels impossible to me. God is faithful to do what Jesus said he would, both in my world and in me.”
The crucial point, I think, is this:
Remembering God is bigger will not instantly solve my problems.
Remembering God is bigger–and closer–than I’ve been thinking will change my perspective. It will rearrange my thoughts. I need my thoughts rearranged. I need God’s being bigger to change me.
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] Remembering God is bigger won’t change politics. But it will keep me from despairing when evil-hearted men and women do evil things, especially in the name of God, especially when evil seems to be winning the day. [/pullquote]
Remembering God is bigger won’t change politics. But it will keep me from despairing when evil-hearted men and women do evil things, especially in the name of God, especially when evil seems to be winning the day. Psalm 37 is a good reminder. It concludes:
The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
he is their refuge in the time of trouble.
The Lord helps them and rescues them;
he rescues them from the wicked, and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
Politicians may do horrible damage, but not beyond God’s ability to save. I’m not saying we don’t worry about the bad things they’re doing. We still resist evil. That’s the biblical command. I’m saying I don’t get so overwhelmed by the bad things they’re doing that I forget God is still redeeming, bringing good out of evil, healing and restoring right through the midst of these horrible things.
Because that’s who God is: Jesus is our Redeemer.
Concerning the beloved people in my life, I see their self-destructive choices and I writhe in agony–and that’s not a bad thing. I mean, it’s not fun. I’m not enjoying it. But my heart is where it should be, with them, loving them not indifferently (oxy-moron if ever there was one) but empathetically. Remembering God is bigger and closer restores the broader view. God loves them more than I do. If I’m right about their choices, God grieves even more than I do. If I’m wrong…not the first time. Either way, God has them.
That God “has them” is very hard to see. It looks, to my weak human eyes, as if God is doing nothing. But I can’t know that. I can’t see all of what is happening, I certainly can’t tell what is going on in their hearts and minds. Faith in Jesus means, now, that I have to pray for more faith and remember that Jesus has come near and stayed near. I have to pray more, period, and respond to my anguish by letting it drive me to prayer, not to deeper discouragement.
God is bigger and God’s love is greater. This rings a bell from somewhere.
I just spent a long afternoon with a younger missionary yesterday. We had a great conversation. He told me that he’s struggling with knowing his purpose here and trying to figure out if what he’s doing is enough. He’d just had a conversation with four or five other missionary guys who, he told me, all had the same question.
Ministry in Nicaragua (and probably anyplace like this) always leaves one feeling insufficient in the face of how much needs to change.
But looking at the suffering here and asking questions about whether my work matters or if it’s enough or “can possibly make any difference?” is all wrong-headed.
It’s wrong because measuring against the big picture that I can see means I’m looking completely in the wrong direction.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]God has a crazy habit of using tiny, insignificant-seeming solutions for massive problems[/pullquote]
God has a crazy habit of using tiny, insignificant-seeming solutions for massive problems:
Jesus tells a parable about mixing yeast in with flour–tiny amount of yeast, lots of flour, all of it gets leavened.
Jesus tells a parable about a mustard seed–tiny seed, grows up into this huge shrub-tree thing. Birds make homes.
Jesus himself is a parable that something tiny can become God’s means of transformation.
God has designed the Kingdom of heaven to work this way. I need to ask God, “Am I being faithful to what you’ve given me today?” That’s my only question. Okay, that’s my only question that will lead me to in the right direction. If it’s “no,” then I need to change. If it’s “yes,” then how the “big picture” (from my microscopic perspective) looks is not my concern.
A baby of a poor family set in a feed trough was not going to change the world. A man wrongfully accused and dying from torture under a violent empire was not going to change the world.
I hate clichés. I try to break down clichés** and find ways to express how my life believing in God connects with your life, whether or not you understand God, or faith, as I do. Some clichés just need to go, while others need a defribillator.
God is bigger. Of course God is bigger. I “know” that, I’m accustomed to that, and my over-familiarity with it contributes to how I’ve lost my focus. I cannot let this become a cliché in my life.
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The thing we know so well that we stop living it may be a distinct category of unbelief. [/pullquote]
The thing we know so well that we stop living it may be a distinct category of unbelief.
As I look back and ahead, I’m preaching to myself–and maybe reminding you–that I don’t need to know God is bigger.
I need to live God is bigger. And closer.
*God’s size is a little hard to comprehend, anyway.
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?”
And that’s just the stuff God’s made, not even God himself.
**I think my goals in writing are approximately this:
Encourage people to believe God loves them and grace for them is greater than they comprehend,
Give people a picture of life here in Nicaragua, especially of life for those living in poverty,
Get rich and famous (still pending),
Describe spiritual reality, as I experience and grasp it, in language everyone can understand.