Listening to Oprah’s “SuperSoul Conversations,” with leading spiritual teachers, I’ve observed eight recurring questions Oprah asks her guests. As I’ll likely never be a guest on Oprah’s podcast, I thought, “Why not write a series of blogs, based on Oprah’s questions?” This is what I might tell Oprah, if given the chance.
“What do you know for sure?” (This is my second, 8.1 version, answer to this question. For my first answer, go here.)
I don’t know anything, at all, for sure.
Yo no se nada.
Zip. Zero. Zed.
Like I said… nothing.
If my lack of spiritual knowing troubles you, I refer you to my previous blog, where I affirm all of the traditional Protestant Christian beliefs. That being said…
As much as I “know,” I don’t know anything… for sure.
And, I’m not alone. You don’t know anything either. Nobody does. No one ever has.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism and Oxford scholar, once wrote, “When I was young I was sure of everything. In a few years, having been mistaken a thousand times, I was not half so sure of most things as I was before. At present, I am hardly sure of anything but what God has revealed to man.”
I’ve long been struck by 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
The point is, when it comes to the things of God, we’re attempting to wrap our minds around something too big, too vast, too powerful, and too good. At best, even the most brilliant scholars, the most adept artists, and the most articulate preachers and poets are making well-intentioned, yet woefully inadequate, attempts to describe the indescribable, to explain the unexplainable, to portray that which is beyond portrayal.
God is too big for that. In the words of the great Inigo Montoya, “Let me explain… No, there is too much. Let me sum up.” All we can hope to do, when it comes to explaining God, is attempt to, “sum up.”
At best, we’re like hungry foreign tourists, pointing at pictures of food on menus, making ridiculous noises and gestures because we can’t read the words or speak the language, desperately hoping the waiter can guess what we want to eat. We’re like ants admiring the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. We’re like puppies attempting to explain Einstein’s theory of relativity. We’re like canaries, demonstrating the purpose and value of the opposable thumb. We’re like toddlers attempting to pilot a jumbo jet. We’re like ancient hunter-gatherers discussing the modern global economy and attempting to solve world hunger and malnutrition, while chatting over lattes at Starbucks. We’re like miniature poodles, standing on the seashore, pondering the curvature of the earth and the moon’s effect on the tides.
Ridiculous. Impossible. Shall I go on?
God is a mystery, and no amount of brilliance, creativity, or study can make God any less mysterious. The Creator created the creation without giving the created ones sufficient cognition to comprehend the Creator completely! And, in my opinion, that’s great!
I need a big God – not one I can summarize in a formula of 100 words or less, or tuck away in my coat pocket like a lucky charm!
As I’ve written before, my favorite word is “ineffable,” which means “too great to be expressed with words.” God is ineffable. If you look up “ineffable” in the dictionary, you might find a picture of God, except God is ineffable and can’t be accurately pictured. So, don’t bother looking it up. There’s no picture! Nevertheless, God is certainly ineffable!
A number of years ago, I realized I have far more questions about God than answers. I LOVE THAT! And, to take it a step further, it seems like every time I learn something new about God, instead of having one less question, I end up with countless more. Every new discovery about God, leaves me with more questions. Every new insight reveals how much less I actually know. Every step forward – spiritually-speaking – opens greater vistas, not smaller ones.
Don’t get me wrong! I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t try to know God! I’m not discouraging searching for greater depths of knowledge and understanding. We can know more – certainly. After all, God gave us intellectually curious brains and hungry souls! We just can’t, ever, know everything. Not even close! And, even as searching leads to more comprehension and insight, we have to acknowledge what we know is WAY less than what we don’t know – even when we don’t know what we don’t know!
Are you following?
If I’m honest, can I really even say I comprehend myself? I don’t understand everything the doctors know about my physical body. Scientists keep discovering new things about the human body everyday. I don’t understand my own motivations, drives, impulses and compulsions, and only God knows what’s hidden in my subconscious. Who knows the untapped potentials lying dormant within me, and which ones I’ll discover, and which ones I never will. I don’t even know what I’ll eat for breakfast today.
If my own life is a mystery to me, how much greater a mystery is God?
Like I said, I don’t know anything. Nothing. Less than nothing. And, I couldn’t be happier.
Add up all of the books I’ve read about God, the classes I’ve taken (and passed), the papers I’ve researched and written, the sermons I’ve prepared and preached, the workshops and conferences I’ve attended, the podcasts I’ve heard, the conversations and discussions I’ve shared in, the blogs I’ve shared, the prayers I’ve prayed, and the thoughts I’ve pondered; and, it might amount to a teaspoon of belief compared to an ocean of God’s Truth. It might amount to a pebble of comprehension compared to 10,000-foot-high mountain of well-intentioned ignorance. It’s like a scribbled thought on a tiny post-it-note compared to the ever-evolving Wikipedia. Or, I actually, possibly, probably know a whole, whole lot less than that.
Really, as much as I know – as much as I think I know; as much as I should know; as much as I’d like to know; as much as I could know, if I really put my mind to it; as much as you’d reasonably expect me to know; as much as I often pretend to know – I don’t know much at all, and I won’t until I see God face-to-face. Neither will you. I don’t even know what we’ll know then. But, I’m sure it must be more than I know now. Well… I think I’m sure. Maybe not. Who knows???
It’s a mystery. And, I’m ok with that.