I sometimes find it difficult to reconcile God as the God of peace and love alongside the image of God as the God of wrath and fear inducing power. And I am quite certain that I am not alone in this struggle.
It seems to me that many people tend to polarize many things. We (and by “we” I mean most human beings) create opposing categories of all shapes and sizes. If boys are strong, girls must be weak. If fat is unhealthy than skinny must be healthy (that one is problematic on many levels, but is perhaps better suited to another blog). If Trump has caused civil unrest, Hillary must have been the better choice. If you attend university you have the skills to reason and problem, solve. If you like Coke you will not like Pepsi. Pretty much the formula goes:
I have found this _________________________________
(enter a person, idea, place, thing, or experience)
(enter description of any kind)
therefore anything else must be _________________________________
(enter description that is exactly opposite of the first description).
There is comfort in this reasoning. When a person is overwhelmed with choices and information it can be calmed by quickly weeding out the unnecessary, dangerous, and unwanted. Of course, in most instances, as soon as these divergent concepts are given further investigation they seldom sustain the initial opposing labels. Girls can also be strong. Skinny can be equal to or unhealthier than fat. Perhaps neither of the lead candidates from the 2016 election were ideal options (a discussion further complicated by the fact that there were multiple candidates- again another topic another time). A person can have a degree and still lack critical thinking skills. Coke and Pepsi (or neither one).
Polarizing options may be comforting, but ultimately, it leads to division. It is fairly apparent how opposing viewpoints can easily create division between individuals or groups of people. But I think being quick to label things with a contradictory category can lead to division within ourselves. Inability to allow differing concepts within ourselves creates a struggle with acceptance of who we are as opposed to who we think we are supposed to be. It can be as simple as being a cat and dog person or as complex as reconciling our instincts and primal desires with the human capacity for self control and higher reason. When we are truly honest with ourselves, there a whole host of conflicting preferences, ideas, and experiences going on within us. Accepting the fact that I am not an “either or” makes me wonder if God is not an “either or” as well.
So, if creating divergent views creates division with others and even within myself, I would wager it is just as divisive when it comes to my relationship with God. Struggles to dissect God into opposing categories reduces Him to an “either or” and impedes in my relationship with Him. I am caught up in a fight to determine where and how God fits into my understanding instead of allowing my faith to accept who He is AND who He also is.
God is not confined to our ability to understand him. We call him the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, but we fail to see the depth to which that duality might exist. This is not about diminishing myself to make God more, it is about seeing that although I may struggle to reach out to a God outside of my comprehension, He is out there anyway. My faith is challenged in that reach beyond logic reason and intellectual understanding. This can lead to a more fully developed picture of God as well as a deeper faith connection to Him. To see God as the God of AND.
There are many ANDs when we use this method of seeing God. God of then AND now, God of peace AND wrath, God who predestines AND allows free will, God who punishes AND forgives, an immense God of the universe AND the intimate God of even small birds. Father AND Son AND Spirit.
But just to be clear the God of AND, is not the same as the God of everything. There are clearly things God is not. He is not false, or weak or evil. He is not the same God of all religions and all things. He is God without limits, but that is not the same as God without code.
At the same time, He is not the God of nothing. Another coping technique when overwhelmed with options is to shut out everything. If there are too many claims to something it is easier to decide they must all be false. If all religions claim to be the true one, it is easier to think they must all be wrong. A plethora of options is not proof that all options are false, just as a plethora of options is not proof that all options are true. That kind of conclusion is closer to wishful thinking. There is more work involved determining when AND is a part of the picture, or at least more faith work in accepting the AND part of the picture. But in the end it is the better picture of God.
If we were to shift our concept of God to the God of AND, we would stop trying to fit God into our understanding. Instead we would be more trying to fit ourselves into the understanding of God. In doing so we could stretch our understanding not just of who God is, but who we ourselves are and who others are around us.
Meet the Pasotr
Pastor Heather and her family have been a part of the Cold Lake Community since December 2006 and she has been the pastor at Community Baptist Church since September 2017.