We all have defaults. The route we drive if we’re not thinking about it. The dinner we make on stressful days. The comforts we turn to when life hurts. They tend to pop up most in the hard times. When there isn’t enough time, the money is short, or emotions are frazzled.
But sometimes the default turns out to be faulty. I know for me, default mode just isn’t working for day to day life. I must pause and consider. Why?
Why is this my default mode or belief?
How did I choose it?
What did I know then?
What do I know now?
What will I do next time?
The trouble is, defaults run deep. We often don’t even realize we have slipped into one until it is in some way challenged. This is particularly true in what we believe about God. Our actions and attitudes swing on a spectrum in response not to what we have heard or have understood, but to what we deeply hold to be true, whether or not it is in fact true.
Many people believe in “a god” out there somewhere. Perhaps one who got everything started and flung the stars and planets into motion, but who is far off in their daily experience. Or they see God as someone looking to catch them in something, or they simply deny the existence of God entirely. I grew up in church, and the thoughts I had of God were colored through the lens of the interpretation of the people around me. Some resonated with or emphasized different characteristics while others were left out all together. It is vital to be aware of how I can default to seeing God through the interpretation of my own experiences, knowing my interpretations to be fickle and changing things.
We walk in dangerous territory when we try to manufacture our own ideas about God. The only trajectory that seems secure is to read what God says about himself. As Francis Chan simply stated,“ We don’t get to decide who God is.”
So how do we find out what God is like, and how can we know if we are making up a “god” of our own ideas rather than discovering who our creator is?
- Story: God is described throughout the Bible primarily in narrative, the story of the actual events as God interacted with his creation through which we glean understanding. It can be confusing and filled with tensions we would rather not fight with, but what can be discovered is worth the wrestle. Try reading with a pen nearby and keep track of patterns or attributes you notice. Some are straightforward and stated in the text (God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love), others are described and must be inferred (God created all things, and must enjoy diversity and beauty).
- Names of God: The Bible is clear that there is one triune God, but there are so many facets to his character that throughout the Bible God is described by using different parts of his character: The God who sees, the living God, God who provides (to name a few). Find a devotional, or free online tool that delves into the places where the original text of the Bible uses different Hebrew words to illuminate for us what God is like.
- Are you uncomfortable?: If you never have to grapple with an aspect of what Scripture says about God, you may be cherry-picking verses to create a God you are comfortable with, rather than discovering all of who God says he is. This is important, because we are responding to the reality of who God is and who he has revealed himself to be, not creating who we think he should be.
For the rest of eternity, we will go deeper into our understanding and relationship with the inexhaustible God who cannot be defined or limited by our human categories.
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV
There are so many facets to who God is. The creator, redeemer, triune God of the Bible is constantly surprising me with aspects I have never considered. It is astounding that God has chosen to reveal himself to human beings at all, much less that he decided to love us, and be known by us.
“But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29