Posted by: Mike Willoughby | July 13, 2010

Why?

Why?

It’s the universal question that parents of toddlers seem to hear in their nightmares.  It’s the response to every parental request, every new discovery and every new situation.  Even when they don’t verbalize the question, you can see it in their eyes.  “Why?”  Even teenagers sometimes throw their parents’ request back at them with a somewhat defiant version of the inquiry.  And what is the universal response to the question?  “Because I told you so!”

Many of you joined me in swearing to your parents when you were teenagers that you would never subject your own children to that hopelessly lame and inadequate response only to find yourselves resorting to that timeless dodge just ten years later.  It’s OK – all parents do it.  Sometimes we just don’t have time to go into in-depth explanations.  Sometimes we are so beaten down by repetitive “why” questions that we finally just take the easy way out.  Sometimes we don’t really have a good answer.  Many times, we realize the explanation would outstrip their tiny brains’ ability to comprehend the truth. 

Do you ever feel “I told you so” is the response you get from God when you ask, “why?”

It shouldn’t surprise us when we get that response from God when we repeatedly ask God, “why?”  Many times our tiny brains can’t comprehend the real explanation.  Perhaps there are other reasons too.  I have referred to Lynn Anderson’s book, They Smell Like Sheep, Volume 2 several times in past articles and I think Lynn provides some insight into why God sometimes responds to us with, “Because I told you so” or some other ambiguous response.

In chapter 17, A Heart at Peace with Ambiguity, Lynn warns that the modern American mind may be missing the boat when we approach God and His Word from an overly rational perspective.  Lynn writes:

The mind-set of the times threatens to strip our faith of symbols, rituals, dramas, mystery, poetry and story, which say about life and God what logic and reason can never say.  Instead, we analyze and explain God.  Scripture becomes mere religious information and faith simply the progressive realization of moral or “religious goals.

From this perspective, we cannot expect anything but flatness.  One-dimensional faith, like a tent with only one peg, easily collapses.  Yet we Americans tend to secure our faith primarily with the one peg of logical thought.  Faith that is only cerebral in content and only behavior-management oriented is one-dimensional.

 I am not suggesting that there is something wrong with trying to understand our faith.  And certainly nothing is wrong with management of behavior.  But many of us attempt to explain the inexplicable, define the indefinable, ponder the imponderable and “unscrew” the inscrutable.  A life of real, meaningful faith can’t be treated that way.  Trying to do so only leaves people with swollen heads and shrunken hearts.

Sometimes we seek the quick and easy answers to the big questions of life just like our little toddlers are looking for an easily understandable answer to their inquiries.  Try to explain to a little child the phenomenon of a rainbow after a storm by explaining the properties of the sun’s light as it is refracted by the millions of tiny prism-like droplets of water in the atmosphere.  How many seconds before their tiny eyes glaze over from attention deficit or pure confusion?  On the other hand, tell them the rainbow is God’s visible reminder to mankind that he will never again completely destroy life on the earth with a flood and witness the satisfaction in their eyes.  Sure, the physics lesson still applies, but the underlying spiritual message is even more important and satisfying.  Too bad we can’t all accept the mystery of creation with the faith and trust of a child!

If you have any doubt that God wants us to be comfortable with a certain level of ambiguity in this life, just read the Bible.  Many times scripture seems to purposely create ambiguity and mystery.  Have you ever wondered why God would reveal himself and his will for our lives through the writings of many authors over hundreds of centuries through an astonishing variety of literary styles?  There are many paradoxes contained in the scripture that confound the wisdom of men.  The wisest man of all time, King Solomon seemed to have come to this conclusion at the end of his life as he penned the book of Ecclesiastes.  Sometimes, we just have to accept the answer, “because I told you so, my little child.”

Think of it this way: Even if we could comprehend the limitless mysteries of God – a topic even the angels have not mastered – would we really be better off?  Lynn writes:

Mystery is precisely the point, isn’t it?  A God so small that we limited humans can fully explain him is not big enough to be worshipped.  Years back, my friend Juan Monroy, a Christian journalist in Madrid, Spain, was among those who interviewed the American astronaut, James Irwin after Irwin returned from his Apollo 15 mission to the moon.  “What did you feel when you stepped out of that capsule and your feet touched the surface of the moon?”

To Monroy’s utter surprise, Irwin replied, “Mr Monroy, it was one of the most profoundly disillusioning moments of my life.”  Monroy pressed the astronaut: “How could standing on the moon be so disappointing to a dedicated astronaut like yourself?”

“All my life,” Irwin explained, “I have been enchanted by the romance and the mystery of the moon.  I sang love songs under the moon.  I read poems by moon-struck poets.  I embraced my lover in the moonlight.  I looked up in wonder at the lunar sphere and basked in its silver, mysterious glow.  But that day when I stepped from the capsule onto the lunar surface and reached down at my feet, I came up with nothing but two handfuls of sterile, gray dirt.  I cannot describe the loss I felt as the romance and mystery were stripped away.”  Then Irwin added, almost plaintively, “Monroy, there will be no more moon in my sky!”

Although there is a piece of eternity in our hearts, God’s fingerprints in our DNA and the image of God in our spiritual beings, we cannot even begin to comprehend and thus possess God.  God reveals himself to us through his Word while he simultaneously veils himself in mystery and ambiguity.  Perhaps as with Moses, who could not survive fully witnessing the glory of God, he does this to protect us from the damage that would be caused if he were to fully reveal himself to us.  I’m certain our finite little brains could not cope with the reality of the infinite greatness of our God.  I think we have to embrace a certain level of ambiguity in our faith and just trust God when he says, “because I told you so!”

Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 55:8-9:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
       neither are your ways my ways,”
       declares the LORD.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
       so are my ways higher than your ways
       and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Until next week,

Meet me at the intersection!


Responses

  1. Warum? Das ist die frage…but faith is the victory! Good stuff as always…


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