(un)knowing God

It has been quite a month. Reeling from what I posted, er…a month ago (I’m not very frequent, I know), the sands of life have been shifting and yielding yet more challenge and opportunity. I have been on a journey far into my childhood (I kid you not) and into what it means to be a fully conscious adult.

In terms of practical life challenges, our move date to Raleigh was postponed a month due to apartment delays; we’re really looking forward to being (re)united with our spiritual family there and forging ahead. In the meantime we’re about to spend 11 days in Southern California which will include time with an intentional community in Ventura and Soliton, an annual gathering I’ve been hearing about forever but am just this year having the opportunity to be part of. All kinds of interesting folks are going to be out there; my friends Spencer and Shayna with The Ooze, as well as Shane Claiborne with The Simple Way Community in Philly and Kester Brewin out of the recently-departed Vaux (RIP) church in London. I am looking forward to their insights on radical human hospitality.

Tying all this together…our life-paths are a mystery (I thought I’d be writing you from North Carolina right now), even our own lives are a mystery (as I’m discovering by re-examining my past afresh). When we look into the face of a loved one, it does us good to realize their eyes and countenance obscure as much as they reveal. Yet why is it that when contemporary Christians approach God, we feel like the mystery is gone, and we want far more disclosure than anticipation?

These are some of the questions being raised by Peter Rollins out of the Belfast, Ireland-based IKON community. I have to say, I’ve been digesting his little tome, How (Not) To Speak of God, and I’ve been loving it. I expected it to be philosophical–and it is. But it is also inspiring me to practical love, astonishment, and wonder.

As God’s friends and family we can often begin taking God for granted…even those of us of a “mystical” bent, like myself. We have become used to the “stewardship of the mystery” that first-century church emissary Paul talks about, that we no longer see Christ as Mystery at all. But Rollins suggests that YHWH’s original indictments against idolatry hold true for mental constructs as well; the solidified “graven images” of God that we can erect in our hearts and minds, systematic theologies (spoken or not) that hold us captive. To truly approach the dynamic, living God revealed in the face (or icon) of Jesus, we most approach realizing that all of our images are tentative at best…as indwelt sons and daughters we know God…yet we do not.

And so. For the past week I’ve had a little practice right before going to bed (which freaks my wife out just a bit, by the way). I sit with my back to my dresser in our bedroom when all the lights are out. Across from me, on the other side of the room, sits a mirror in the darkness. I see, literally “through a glass darkly” my shape, my reflection, the estranged glory of the imago dei. Using my own image there as a point of contact, I look through and past myself and encounter my God in the darkness. After sitting like this for a couple of minutes, my mind doesn’t really wander much; my sight kind of hazes out of focus, and my vision instead dis/focus on the presence of the Godhead within and around. Sometimes to anchor myself and express what I’m perceiving I say, in a tone of quiet astonishment “I know you, God. And yet I don’t.”

I believe that it is here, in this tension of spirited (un)knowing, that the beloved community of the Spirit will (re)discover the divine in our midst, in each other, and in our world.

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