Friday, August 6, 2010

God Interrupted (the musings of an orthodox rebel)

"Thou, Lord, are most high for evermore." Ps. 92:8

The whole of the Christian life is about coming back to reality. It is about awakening from the dream; about flying out of the cave and into the sunlight. It is about sailing past all the lies (of ourselves and others) and into the startling, offensive, awesome, and relieving truth that God is God, and we are not. God is most high, and we are not. He is the life and light that awaits us when we awake. He is the daylight; we are only dreamers.

We are dreamers of the worst sort: we are illusionists. We convince ourselves of the most outlandish lies! We dance to the most ridiculous tunes! We tell ourselves the most ludicrous things and assent to them as though they were gospel. This self-inflicted hell does not end at salvation. We are in constant danger of it all the time. We cast illusions all the time, and of all the illusions that we cast, there is none more tragic than the ones that we cast across God.

We all cast illusions across God. We all give Him a particular mask to wear. At some point in our lives (perhaps we have forgotten when), God did something unpredictable and unexplainable. Whatever naive categories you once had about Him were obliterated, and in response you have done a most foolish thing: you tried to understand. You tried to fit those categories back together again, tried to reconstruct them so they could contain God once again. You're motives were partly theodic: you thought that you were saving God from His own actions. They were also fearful: you were trying to save yourself from God. In reality, you were merely building the walls of your own prison.

Every attempt to understand God, to fully and completely comprehend both Him and His actions and be done with it, is an illusion and snare. Every attempt to understand God is an attempt to control Him (for we cannot control what we don't completely understand). Every attempt to control Him is not a detriment to Him but to us. It locks us in a smaller and smaller box, with us unable and unwilling to accept that God is ultimately bigger than our understanding (Romans 11:33-5). Our attempts at rationalization only dig our dungeons deeper.

God will not stand such prisons. He constantly smashes them apart, constantly comes crashing into our lives, ruining our plans, upsetting our understanding, and collapsing our categories yet again. He is trying to wake us up, but we commit the same error as last time. We try to understand again, and we build new categories, erecting new walls around us, walls that God will have to smash  through as well. If this madness of ours continues, then we will grow to hate Him and say with Job, "Wilt thou break a leaf driven to and fro? And wilt thou pursue the dry stubble?" (Job 13:24-5) He will break and pursue, however; and we will count Him as our enemy, as a threat, as an unpredictable wildness too dangerous to trust. Perhaps we will still believe in Him and His Son, but we do not trust Him anymore. He has wrecked too many things.

Wreck them He must, however. We are trapping ourselves, digging our graves deep into the cave and away from the sun. We were not meant to be imprisoned; we were meant to be free. God will not stand any prison wall around us, even walls that are our pet favorites. He will break the box. He will smash the dream. He will set the dungeon aflame with light. He will continue to do so until we dead awaken, because He loves us with undying love. He will not tolerate our own private hells; He will not let us grow use to them, nor will He let us grow use to Him. Every fear-created "safe" version of God that we have ever constructed to satiate our need for limited liabilities and safe-investments is nothing but an idol that will be burned in the all-consuming fire of the God who is.

An illustration is in order. There is a wonderful little movie called Howl's Moving Castle. In it, we meet Sophie, a delightful yet tragic girl who lives and works in a hat shop. It is a highly dull and mediocre existence, but she is content with it. Let her beautiful (and air-headed) sisters have more in their lives; she is quite content and convinced that what she has is all that she needs and deserves. Then one day, she quite literally bumps into the rogue wizard Howl. Their meeting is no longer than five minutes, but in that time they flee evil monsters and float across the sky. Then Howl is gone, and Sophie is alone again; but things will never be the same. A jealous witch curses Sophie, and her life at the hat shop is finished. She treks out into the wilderness to find Howl, hoping that he can reverse the spell. In the process of doing so, she finds adventure, romance, and beauty.

That is the closest I can get to what I am trying to say. We are that girl in the hat shop. We have built for ourselves a very well meaning fiction about life, ourselves, and God. We are content with what is less. Then God (who can be aptly described as a rogue wizard) literally comes crashing into our lives, and everything goes topsy-turvey. What once was can no longer be. However, there is an important and unfortunate difference between us and Sophie: when her life was turned topsy-turvey, she left that life behind and headed into the unknown wilderness before her; when our life is turned topsy-turvey, we do not. We go back to that hat shop and rebuild, this time with thicker walls. We reconstruct our understanding of God with new concepts and conceits, and sit down hoping that maybe this time we will keep Him in check.

Brothers and sisters, these things should not be.

What should be is freedom: the freedom to take whatever God gives you, to go wherever He leads, and not bother your head about what exactly is going on. The inner-workings of things are His business; you are along for the ride, but it is a wild and wonderful ride. It is the ride that we were meant to take, and I want to express my final thoughts very clearly and (if I may say so) defiantly:

God is the constant explosion in our lives, and He will continue to explode our prison-like conceptions of Him and ourselves until we finally give up the insane notion that things can ever be normal again once He comes crashing through. Until we give it up, we will never be free. There is no freedom in returning to the hat shop to watch the trains roll by. Freedom only comes when we accept the interruptions and inconveniences of God and follow them wherever they lead. Sophie certainly saw Howl's interruption of her own life as an inconvenience, but being the sensible girl that she is she rolled with those inconveniences and followed where they led. Where they led her was romance, which is another way of saying adventure. However, there is no adventure, no beauty, no wonder, no greatness, no anything in the life that will not accept by faith the interruptions of God. Herein is faith: when everything falls apart so that life can never be the same, and someone asks you what happened, you can only  (and gladly) reply, "God interrupted."

Let the illusions fail. Let the ever-present, ever-burning presence and power of God smash them into pieces. Let the chains fall off and the prison walls come crashing to the ground. You may try to build them again, but God will simply wreck them again and again until we finally awake to His Reality and fall to our knees saying, "The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!"

-Jon Vowell (c) 2010


  1. I understand what you're trying to say, but I'm confused as to how you can reconcile this idea with your constant insistence on reason.

  2. Remember my post "A Philosophy of Potatoes" and my focus on I Cor. 13:9. Reason has its uses and its limits: that is my first and final doctrine on the matter (of Reason, that is).

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