This was the question I offered last Friday night as I spoke to a wonderful group of women at their annual W.I.S.H. Conference (Women Intently Seeking Him) in Grandview, Washington. For about two months this question consumed me. I had to find the answer for myself before I could ask it of others.
How would you answer the question? A lot of people assume they can’t know God better and stop trying. Some seem to coast with just enough information to be respectable. That’s not enough for me. I want to know God in a way that makes me understand I can never know everything about Him but neither can I stop going deeper.
As I examined my own answers to the question and reviewed encounters I have had with others, I came to some interesting conclusions about why I believe people feel that they either don’t know or can’t know God.
1. We become too comfortable with who we think He is.
I gladly credit Glaphre Gilliland for helping me understand this when she said:
It was true in my life. I took who I thought God to be and responded to Him based on ungodly interpretations. I accused Him of not really understanding me when what I wanted and thought I needed didn’t happen. How sad that I could inhibit my own ability to know God for who He really was because I put him in the box of my own understanding.
2. We try to understand God's actions before we understand His character.
When there is a tangle of circumstances, unexplained crises, horrific acts of inhumanity, it is easy to accuse God of not doing enough. Why didn’t you stop it, or change it, or bring it, God? We try to interpret who God is by how we believe He has acted or not acted. It’s backwards. I would never want anyone to determine my identity based on their interpretation of my actions only. When they do, they fail to see my heart.
3. We transfer lies we believe about ourselves to God.
Perhaps this is the most dangerous as well as the saddest. We say, “I’m too messed up.” “I’m not smart enough.” “I can never live up to God’s standard. “ Or any number of other put-downs. I’ve seen it in the eyes of a hundred women, bereft of models of love and affirmation in their lives they continue to believe that the way others have treated them is the standard God also uses. Brennan Manning calls it self-hate. I’m not sure all of us would use that label, but I think it is closer to the truth than we like to think. Such statements block the full forgiveness, love, and hope God wants to give. What we believe about ourselves doesn't change who God is but it could change what we believe we can receive from Him.
If God is more than who I think he is, I need to know what those God-limiting thoughts are so that I know God is beyond them. Not beyond my reach of Him, but beyond some ceiling I’ve tried to trap God under. We do it mindlessly. We do it casually. We do it and pay for it. Because if we think God is less than who He really is, it doesn’t change who who God is; it changes us.
What about you? Is it possible that you are too content with how you have interpreted circumstances in ways that have denied the true all-loving, all-compassionate, all-perfect character of God? Is it possible that God is more than who you think is and you have lived more in your thoughts about God than in God’s more?
Perhaps it's time to remove God from the box of our limited understanding.