I had two older siblings, growing up. The difference in age was significant. I was born when my brother was ten and my sister was twelve. So, it was a little like having two sets of parents. The majority of the time I loved having two sets, especially when the younger one wasn’t too bossy. My sister went off to college when I was pretty young, but my brother was still finishing up high school and so I got to have him around for a few more years. I ended up spending a lot of time with him, watching him work out with weights in the basement. (Once he was all sweaty and disgusting, he liked chasing me around the basement, threatening me with slimy hugs.) He was also pretty good at imitating our acquaintances’ funny quirks and mannerisms, getting them down to such perfection, that I laughed until my head hurt. Sometimes he’d baby sit me and my younger brother when Mom and Dad went out on a date or something. That was always fun. We ended up goofing around a lot before Jeremy sent us off to get ready for bed. It was when Justin and I were in our pajamas, a little too wound up and hyper to go to sleep quite yet, that I begged the usual topic.
“Tell me about God!”
It wasn’t that I wanted a story about God. I was looking for specific information. Once before, during one of these bedtime theological discussions, Jeremy dropped the bomb on me. He had said, “God has never had a beginning and He doesn’t have an end. He has always just been.” Well, to a seasoned student of theology, that concept is mind-boggling enough. You can only imagine what a thunderbolt descends upon the mind of a six-year-old at the same piece of information. It floored me. Everything has a beginning! How can you exist if you never began? But my brother assured me that this was the reality of the situation. From then on, I wanted to talk about God’s infinity with Jeremy before bedtime.
I used to sit on the bed after Jeremy had repeated this doctrinal truth to me once again and just grin. What does a person say to that anyway? My mind would go on a historical regression. “God existed before me, before Mom and Dad, before George Washington, before creation, before…well, what happened before creation?” It always stopped there in my mind, but there was something rather thrilling about the fact that lots of things must have happened before creation since God was there. After a while I couldn’t think about it anymore. Whenever I tried to make sense of it, I felt like I was trying to take in the whole universe and my brain was in danger of bursting. And it was such a good feeling, knowing that God was so huge—big enough to bust my brain. I didn’t even have the wherewithal to be afraid of God’s immensity. I can only describe the way I felt about it by describing my first take-off experience on an airplane. I felt the roar and vibrations of the engines underneath me as the plane picked up speed, rushing up into the sky. I sat back in my chair and grinned. In that moment, I knew it was entirely possible that something could malfunction and we’d all get blown to smitherines in the next fifteen seconds, but I was taken away by the power of it and I didn’t care. Only to think that God’s power is worth far more than millions of airplane engines and He doesn’t malfunction.
When I was little there was nothing bigger than God’s immensity, nothing else that could send me into an awe-inspired trance than His infinity. I should mention that I was hardly a model child. I was plenty naughty and got my fair share of spankings and thinking sessions with my nose in the corner. I got mad and cried often enough when things didn’t go my way. Still, and probably because children have much better imaginations than adults, I was always floored by the topic of God. Then I grew up. In some ways, my knowledge of God increased and I grew to know more of His characteristics. In other ways, my knowledge decreased, or maybe the better way to put it was that the knowledge got shoved aside to a more manageable corner of my mind to make room for adult cares, concerns, hopes, worries, ambitions, desires and the all-consuming responsibilities of living. (After all, I couldn’t get much done if I spent the live-long day thinking about how God went on and on and on and on…) I didn’t stop loving God, it’s just that I didn’t find myself as amazed at Him as I used to. I had accepted God’s infinity and His love and His justice as a matter of course and put it to rest. I put His enormity into finite terms and made an end of it.
But then curious things began to happen. The cloud of concerns and bustling activity would suddenly become dry and lifeless all of a sudden. None of them looked appealing or hopeful. Even the best and most useful things. It was as if they all died and fell around me leaving a choking vapor of smoke that closed me in. I was overcome with restlessness for no particular reason, and how unhappy I was when I tried to look up at God. I had accepted and dimly remembered that He was good, but now I couldn’t see Him through the grime. My mode of operation in times like these was to spend more time reading the Bible and praying, praying to a God who gave very little indication that He was still there. The haze had cut off my line of communication to Him, that clear view of Himself that used to delight me. So, I had to rely on the communications He had already sent through His Word and muddle through the best I could. And then, after a long time of waiting, there He was almost as mind-bogglingly beautiful as He had been when I was a little girl, come to help me when I least expected Him. I say almost as beautiful because just as soon as I saw Him again, I began to think that things were put to rights and the cloud of distractions began to resurrect and bombard me. Already, my mind began filling up with the cares of the world. I’d had my dose of God, and now I was ready for something else.
If you’re at all honest, you must admit that this sounds quite familiar. It is not that we do not genuinely desire to love God, even in the middle of all the distractions and incessant battles to overcome our sin. It isn’t that we don’t cry out to God while we run from pillar to post, in distracted activity. It isn’t even that all those things we’re doing are unnecessary or wrong. So, what is it? Why does our first breathtaking glimpse of God always fade away behind a blinding fog of who knows what? How can we so quickly forget what we hold in our hands–the gift that God has made of Himself for us to keep for all of eternity—that this infinite God has promised to be our God and that we are His people?
Quite honestly, I’m not sure. At least in my case, I think it’s because I stopped saying a very simple thing, “Tell me about God!” Lately, meaning in the last few years, I feel like I’ve been wading through just such a fog of forgetfulness. My life has consisted of completing one goal after another—get the book finished, get the next school assignment done, get the book published, get this piece of music learned, figure out your schedule, register for this class, figure out if you have enough money for the aforementioned class. It never ends. Often, my solution to the problems and frustrations is to think about them some more and try to work harder. Sitting down, stopping everything and putting everything else out of my mind to hear about God has become increasingly more difficult as I’ve grown older.
I’ve also noticed another thing. If I do not choose to do put everything aside before things get out of hand, God tends to arrange it for me. Sometimes He makes life flavorless. Sometimes He makes me notice that I’ve gone whole days without giving Him anything more than my peripheral thoughts and attention. Sometimes He makes me so depressed I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes He takes away my sleep at night (as He did just a few nights ago) until I can say like little Samuel in the Old Testament, “Speak Lord, for your servant hears.” It’s in the middle of crushing loads like these, that I look up once again and notice what I’ve been missing for such a long time. I wish I weren’t so forgetful. I wish I could sit like a little child at His feet all day long, while I’m working or playing, bowled over by His goodness.
Well, I don’t live with Jeremy anymore. I don’t always have someone handy who would respond enthusiastically if I abruptly shouted, “Tell me about God!” So, I must do the next best thing. I have to tell someone else about God which is precisely what I’m doing now. Because, oftentimes, it is in telling someone about God that I’m really talking to myself. I cannot afford to forget.