An Unexpected Question
I sat behind the wheel of the driving school car, foot flat on the accelerator, trying to pick up speed as quickly as possible as I pulled onto the Autobahn. I was as nervous as a rabbit poking its head out of safety on the first day of spring. Next to me, my driving instructor looked disturbingly unconcerned and what’s more, he picked this moment to ask me if I was a Christian!
To say that I was surprised is an understatement. I live in Germany, where religion doesn’t even remotely appear on the radar of conversation topics. I said a quick prayer that was more of a flash of thoughts than a cohesive sentence of well-ordered words. I wish I could tell you that it was a powerful prayer of faith and thanksgiving for this evangelistic moment. The truth is, that my fear of driving on the highway trumped my desire to do a good job of providing a neatly packaged Gospel message at that moment. I think my voiceless prayer was more of the “don’t let me die!” variety, combined with a small plea for God to give me the right words to say.
I did feel the weight of the moment though, and as I settled into a comfortable pace I started telling my instructor a little about my faith and my beliefs. He listened attentively and then when I asked him if he believed in God he explained that he believed in someone – a higher and more powerful someone, but he wan’t sure if that ticked enough boxes to fit with a biblical Christian view. He went on to explain that he believes that this God-being must be everywhere, in all things and at all moments. It was an honest conversation filled with an exchange of imagining what an incomprehensible God is like.
God’s Greatness and Complexity
I have thought about that conversation a lot since that day. My driving instructor didn’t have a neatly packaged answer about who God is and he certainly wouldn’t have benefited from me trying to give him one either. I appreciated his honest views and he appreciated that I didn’t talk like I was the final authority on everything. God is mysterious, there’s no denying it. Our beliefs about who he is rest on stories, oral traditions, the written word and personal testimonies. And as real as these are to us, God remains hard to pin down. He’s bigger than we can understand and whether I like to admit it or not, he is often more illusive and intangible than I’d like.
We might find it hard to define him or to conceptualize how it is possible for someone to have no beginning and no end but I’m learning that it’s okay not to know everything. At the end of the day, people don’t want to hear rehearsed three-line responses to difficult questions. God is a big topic and if we try to reduce him to into something that we fully understand then we also reduce his majesty and his splendor.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He also has planted eternity in men’s hearts and minds [a divinely implanted sense of a purpose working through the ages which nothing under the sun but God alone can satisfy], yet so that men cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11
I love this verse from Ecclesiastes because it captures something that resonates with me so much. There are these eternity seeds in all of us. These seeds are yearnings to know God and to talk about what he might be like. When we put our trust in Jesus and begin to grow as Christians, we do learn more and more about who God is, but that doesn’t mean that we can figure him out entirely.
How liberating it is to realize that our inability to provide a neat answer of who he is does not undermine him, rather it highlights how vast and deep and wide he is. I rest in the knowledge that God is complex and I believe that in his complexity, he is big enough to defend his name and to weave beautiful stories of salvation out of our stumbling and clumsily strung-together words.