Many of my ideas about God have been much stretched and challenged in recent months and years. While this process of deconstruction and reconstruction has not been entirely without pain and discomfort, I’m very glad of the overall trajectory. And the process continues.
As regular readers will know, I’ve been thinking quite a lot lately about the nature of sin, fear and desire (check out my recent series on fear starting here). These are phenomena that are fundamental to the human condition; to brush them aside or gloss over them, as those in some Christian circles tend to do, is to deny reality and engage in spiritual fantasy. I’m determined to keep thinking through such things.
Here’s what occurred to me earlier today. We are broken people, largely motivated by unhealthy desires of which we are often not even aware. Part of the process of waking up to reality lies in activating our minds and thinking – by which I mean doing the hard work of wrestling with our thoughts – about what we believe, why we believe it and what the implications of that belief might be. This, to me, is why theology is so fascinating and life-giving.
But… as humans, our thoughts are flawed; and as long as our thoughts remain entirely human thoughts, we’re bound to keep thinking in flawed ways. Specifically, when it comes to our understanding of God and our relation to Him and to other people, as long as we keep thinking our strictly human thoughts, we are doomed to frustration and disappointment. Why? Because, quite simply, we will continue to have flawed expectations (of God and other people), and we will continue to disappoint others by failing to live up to their flawed expectations.
What am I saying, then? Should we give up using our minds altogether? Of course not! What we need is the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who renews our minds. Human thinking will only get us so far; we need the renewal of Holy Spirit enlightenment to break us out of our frustration and disappointment and open up new vistas of possibility in the way we think. And new thinking, of course, leads to new doing: that’s why the Apostle Paul said that renewed thinking leads to transformed behaviour.
As long as we continue in our non-Spirit-inspired thinking, then, we’re doomed to continue going round the vicious cycle of disappointment and frustration. We need to open ourselves up to the possibility that there is much we do not yet understand; that there is much about which we are wrong (ouch!); that our feelings and perceptions are still very much distorted, no matter how long we’ve been following Jesus.
Maybe this all sounds perfectly obvious to you; stated in black and white, it sounds pretty obvious to me. In practice, however, I know how easily I gravitate towards certainty, rigidity and categorical rightness.
May we allow the Holy Spirit to release the vice-like grip of certainty and rationality over our minds and liberate us to consider, just for a moment, that everything is perhaps not as we have always assumed.
[ Image: Dennis Wilkinson ]