Friday, April 4, 2014

Spirit of God

Yesterday, I asked what you see of the Savior. Do you know His face only by its facade, or do you know intimately His features? Today's thought is similar. The idea today is, what do you know of the spirit of God?

This is an important question. One of the struggles of having an "invisible" God is that it can be hard to see what He's doing, and hard to show anyone else exactly where God is. Or even who He is. People - Christians and non-Christians alike - are stuck on this idea of the spirit of God because we think it is so loosely defined, and undefinable. We think it is ungraspable. Unknowable. We even have a phrase for this:

God works in mysterious ways.

Which is spiritual speak for, "I have no idea." It's a buzz phrase for "Because I believe in God, I have to believe that He's behind this somewhere, somehow, but I could never tell you where or how because I just don't know." It's the spirit of God, a mystical vapor, a fleeting fog. 

Or is it? I wish I took better notes. It was either last week or the week before, and I was reading something - the Bible, a book, which book?, I can't remember - when I started to have this thought about the formed vs. the unformed spirit of God. And beyond that, the formed vs. the unformed spirit of God within a man. Because I think for too long, I bought into this idea that the spirit of God was outside of my reach, that I could never explain it nor define it and because I could do neither, I would only have to trust it. Talk about casting your cares on the wind!

(By the way, you can't necessarily catch the spirit of God even in the wind. Ask Elijah.)

But with all I have of my God, with all I know of Him, with all that I've read about Him and seen of Him exposed in the present, I can't believe that God would relegate His people to having only a vague concept of His spirit. A simple wisp of the wind, for lack of a better term. A phantom. God's entire relationship with mankind has been staked on being present with man - in the Garden of Eden, atop Mount Moriah, in the middle of the Red Sea, in a cloud by day and fire by night, in the flesh of Christ Himself. I refuse to believe that God would ask His people to believe in an unformed spirit, a concept with no shape or structure. I refuse to believe He would demand that we simply believe in God, that we simply accept that God works in mysterious ways, that we live our lives believing the idea of God is simply expansive, that it takes up all space and takes on all forms and is whatever it is in the places in which we would have to trust that it's there.

Do you see the problem? I know in my heart what it's like to have this concept of God's unformed spirit. I know in my community what it's like, as I hear it reflected from other people. And yet, I am struggling to define exactly what it is that we can't quite define. I am flubbing over these words, knowing they are inadequate, and yet not able to come up with anything more substantive. That is precisely the language we have for our God as long as we continue to believe in His unformed spirit. We can't quite put our finger on Him, and we can't even make sense as to why. It's a jumbled mess.

If you're looking, I think you'll see that the spirit of God is not just a mist. It's not a phantom or an infinite expansion. God is not simply "everywhere," as we so readily believe. He is not unexplainable or unknowable or undefinable. He's not some blur on the cosmic creation. In fact, the more you're looking for Him, the more He starts to come into focus.

No. Most of us, the vast majority of us, will never see the spirit of God. We will never have Him in a tangible form. But He's taking shape all the same. Slowly, over time, as faith grows in our hearts, God grows in our eyes and we see His spirit in a whole new way.

We see it in wisdom. The more intimately we see the wovenness of the universe, the more we see the spirit of God reflected in wisdom. And it starts to take shape.

It is defined a little more by grace. When we realize that we have received a tender mercy we did not deserve, that shows us who God is. And the spirit of God is hemmed in by grace.

And also by the very mercy, that understanding that we have also not received what we do deserve. God is coming into focus.

There are so many attributes of God, some that He's given us of Himself and some that we have given Him, that come to define what the spirit of God is. The more we recognize these traits in our world, the more we start to see the outline of God. He starts to take shape before our very eyes in strength, grace, wisdom, mercy, forgiveness, presence, passion, promise, love, joy, peace, and on and on and on until it's not so hard any more to see what God looks like. He is drawn in by His own boundaries, by the very nature of who He is.

Internally, this is also true. It may seem like the spirit of God comes in and fills up all of your spaces, takes residence in every molecule of your being. But as you grow, as we grow and mature and come to know Him more, the spirit of God consolidates inside of us and forms not a mystery but a majesty. Not a ghost but a grace. We develop within us this clearly defined, fully formed spirit of God that we can hold onto in our hearts in a way that the vapor never holds. It is the radiance of that God that fills us and permeates every facet of our being. It is not until we have this God inside of us that we begin to understand who He is at all, or who we are, or even what faith is.

It's too easy to just say that God works in mysterious ways. It's a cop out. It's laziness and an unwillingness to dive into the messy and sometimes offensive ways of God, ways that are contradictory to the things our world tells us to look for. God doesn't work in mysterious ways. He tells us exactly how He works; we just don't always have the eyes to see it. But the more we focus on what He's given us to see, the more we see of Him and the more we understand the spirit of God.

It is not the unformed, but the clearly formed, taking shape over time as we dare to see what God has set before our eyes.

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