Friday, July 8, 2016

Lose or Learn

I have been spending a lot of time on Facebook lately. (Yes, more than usual. I have had a lot of time on my hands.) And I know enough to realize that just because a good quote is attributed to a famous person (usually Einstein, Mother Teresa or Mark Twain) it doesn't mean they actually said or wrote it. Even back in biblical times, people credited writings to someone more prestigious than themselves, probably to get a bigger audience. Bible scholars even have a word for such writings: pseudepigrapha. That's the category for all of the gospels and epistles excluded from the Bible that were that were obviously written long after the apostles died. Some are plainly bogus, like the Gospel of the Birth of Mary, the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Peter which features a giant talking cross!

But sometimes a quote is so good, it doesn't matter who said it. I read one recently that was attributed to Nelson Mandela but upon further investigation, I could find no reliable source. But the quote is a vital truth nevertheless. It goes, “I never lose. I either win or learn.”

In a few seconds on US-1, I broke a number of bones and ripped or punctured a number of internal organs. I spent 40 days in the hospital and 100 days in a rehab center, recovering and then relearning how to walk. I am still in therapy.

I could look at this time as a big loss: loss of peace of mind for my family and friends, loss of health, loss of mobility, loss of a car, loss of time ministering to people, loss of income and loss of money due to medical bills. They are depressing to think about.

But, while acknowledging all those real losses, it is more fruitful to look at what I have learned. I have learned that we take a lot of things for granted: being able to walk, talk, eat, groom yourself, decide when and what to eat. We even take the ability to breathe for granted, as I found out twice, once when my right lung collapsed at the accident and once in the hospital when I threw some pulmonary emboli and lost the ability to breathe with my left lung.

I learned how important the love and support of family and community are. I shall never forget waking up from my coma to find my wife holding my right hand and my daughter my left. I shall never forget the joy of seeing my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter when I got out of ICU. I was similarly buoyed up by visits from my brother and mother, my Episcopal bishop, colleagues bringing me communion and anointing me with oil, parishioners from both churches and a captain from the jail telling me 500 inmates were concerned about me. The community organized fundraisers for Julie and I to help us with the bills.

I learned how different it is to be a patient rather than a nurse. I always thought I was an empathetic nurse and tried to see things from my patients' points of view. But that is quite different from actually experiencing what it is like to be put on a bed pan, receive a bed bath, be transferred painfully from bed to wheelchair, and be awakened at 3 am to have your blood drawn.

I learned how vital it is to have God in my life and to trust him. I learned how helpful it is to have a God who understands firsthand what it is to suffer. I may not have been able to see the purpose of my suffering at times but I never doubted there was one. Or more than one. I am still learning this.

And I learned that sometimes the right thing to do, the healing thing, is hard and painful. The first time I was seated in a wheelchair, my task was just to sit upright for 2 hours. The last half-hour was excruciating. Walking was complicated (you would not believe how many rules there are!) and exhausting. Using stairs is painful. Going from sitting to standing or from standing to sitting hurts.

We all want a life that is easy and painless. But during those periods, we often take things for granted and forget to be grateful for all of our abilities and gifts. We forget that transitions are usually painful but that sometimes doing the right thing is hard and hurts. We look at what we have lost and fail to see what we still have and more importantly, what we have gained.

To paraphrase the Dread Pirate Roberts, anyone who tells you that life can be painless is selling something. That's why, as odd as it seems to the rest of the world, at the heart of our faith is God on a cross. But also an empty tomb. You can't have one without the other.

Be grateful. Be loving. Be trusting. Be humble. Be prepared for things to be hard and hurtful, especially when you are undergoing a change, even if it is healing. But as Paul said about the advantages he had before his Damascus experience, “...I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus as my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ...” He didn't see these things as a loss because what he gained was so much more valuable.

We never lose. We either win or we learn more about God and his grace, his forgiveness, his healing and his love.

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Trinity Unexplained

I went to Wheaton College in Illinois, better known as Billy Graham's alma mater. Though part of the Evangelical subculture, Wheaton professors at that time were allowed a certain amount of latitude in their expression of the Christian faith. I had one Bible professor for instance who refused to affirm the Trinity. He said that he believed, as the Bible said, that the Father was God, the Son was God, the Holy Spirit was God and that there is one God. The Trinity, he said, was the church's working hypothesis of how those 4 statements could all be true.

And he is right. The word Trinity does not appear in the Bible, nor is the relationship of the three divine persons spelled out in a systematic way. But then the official definition of the Trinity, usually called the Athanasian Creed, doesn't actually explain it either. Rather it says what it isn't (three gods, or 1 god in 3 guises). What the church did in the definition of the Trinity is preserve the paradox by rejecting the ways people usually try to oversimplify the problem.

Why did people come up with the idea? Because they experienced God in 3 different ways. And even non-Christians have experienced God in at least 2 of these ways.

When most people think of God, they think of him as creator. They look at nature, at the universe, at their own bodies and think, “This isn't the result of an unimaginably long and unlikely series of accidents. Everything fits together too well. Some things have very clear purposes. God created this.” For most people God is the cause and the architect of all that is.

Some people sense God within themselves and/or within creation. Some religions see God as primarily an inner light or spark.

Christianity says, yes, God the Father is our creator and God the Holy Spirit works within us. But we also experience God in another way.

We affirm that Jesus Christ is God Incarnate. He is God become human, one of us. He knows from firsthand experience what our lives and our world is like. God is not remote or removed from us. He knows what it is like to suffer and even to die. As the saying goes, he's been there, done that.

But because he is God, in Jesus we see what God is like in terms we can understand, in terms of time and space and human personality, as J.B. Phillips put it. God is not an abstract force we can't relate to but a person with whom we can have a relationship.

And because we were made in God's image, and because Jesus is the image of God undistorted by sin, in Jesus we can also see what we were meant to be and can be if we let his Spirit work in us.

Jesus is the bridge between the Creator God above us and God within us, the Holy Spirit. Jesus is God beside us, so to speak. As the song says, “What if God was one of us?” The answer to that question is he'd be Jesus.

But how is it that we are not worshiping 3 gods? Or how do we know that God is not just appearing in 3 different modes or masks?

This is where 1 John 4:8 comes in. It says, “God is love.” It doesn't say God is loving, but that God is love itself. God is three divine persons in an eternal love relationship, so united as to be one. When we get married we try to achieve what it says in Genesis, that the two become one flesh or one organism. We humans fail to fully realize that but God is perfect love, perfect unity that does not mean the eradication of individuality.

I cannot explain the Trinity, not the way I can explain how an internal combustion engine works. But you know what? We can't even explain how a collection of neurons give rise to the awareness that I am a person. I think if we can't understand how human consciousness works we can hardly expect God to be easier to grasp. Surely God is an even bigger mystery than we are. If not, he wouldn't be God, but our creation.

What we can know is this: God created us, God lived and died as one of us to save us from our sins and rose to give us hope of new life, and God has come to dwell within us to guide us and make us into the people he always intended us to be. And we can know that God is love, the kind of expansive love that invites others into that divine relationship.

The best way to understand our Triune God is to experience him. Look upon his creation with awe and interact with it. Read and inwardly digest the accounts of his life as one of us. Absorb his teachings and appreciate his sacrifice for us. Open your heart and mind to his Spirit. Let him work within you to renew your mind and remake you into a new creation in Christ. And if you do, you will know the love that made us and that is the beating heart of all that is. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Loud and Clear

I am reading a fascinating book on child development and the author points out that very small children have a hard time understanding that just because they think something is true, it doesn't follow that everyone else feels the same. Most of us grow up to realize that other people have their own perceptions of the truth, though, let's face it, we secretly think that if other people were as smart or as knowledgeable as we are they'd agree with us. Some people however seem to feel strongly that only their point of view is legitimate.

Sadly a lot of people who feel this way are very committed to their political party and/or their religion. And when you think of religious fanaticism you may think of the Dark Ages. So the person we are honoring today is a breath of fresh air.

Alcuin of York was an English deacon who was a scholar, teacher, and poet. On a trip to see the Pope on behalf of the English king with the wonderful name Elfward, Alcuin met the Emperor Charlemagne. He was asked to join a group of scholars who were part of what is called the Carolingian Renaissance. That's right, in the middle of the so-called Dark Ages, there was a flowering of learning and the arts. Alcuin actually educated the Emperor's sons as well as Charlemagne itself.

But what endears Alcuin to me is that he got Charlemagne to abolish the death penalty for paganism. Alcuin said, “Faith is a free act of the will, not a forced act. We must appeal to the conscience, not compel it by violence. You can force people to be baptized but cannot force them to believe.” So in 797 Charlemagne ended the practice of forcing pagans to convert on pain of death.

Religion is about ultimate values and so it is extremely hard to change people's minds. But if you really want them to dig in their heels, get belligerent with them. Unfortunately the only people who will convert when faced with force are usually those who were lukewarm about their original faith and are making the change for purely pragmatic reasons. They are hardly likely to become model members of their new belief system.

I prefer doing what author Madeleine L'Engle said about the matter. “ We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”

It is said that St. Francis told his followers to “preach the gospel always. If necessary use words.” That's a challenge all Christians should live by. Can people tell you are a follower of Jesus just by what you do? Do not just your words but your every action reveal your love for God and for every person made in his image? Do they show the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

You can motivate people by fear. In fact, it is a easy, lazy way of getting people to act, which is why a lot of politicians and certain religious leaders use fear. Fear literally bypasses the rational part of the brain. But as Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

You can motivate people by hate. Focus on what disgusts or angers people and then demonize your opponents. Make them out to be less than human. But as Ezekiel writes, “As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his ways and live...” (Ezek 33:11) God does not hate anything or anyone that he has created. It is we who have so often rejected his love. Paul writes in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” So to whom should we show God's love? Everyone we encounter. And how should we do so?

There were no mass media in Jesus' day. There was no standardized sign language. Yet somehow the deaf learned of who Jesus was, what he preached and what he could do. And he was able to heal them so that means they put their trust in him. Jesus communicated God's love so perfectly that even the deaf got the message.

You are the only Christ some people will ever encounter. Live your life so that even if they could not hear, they would see Jesus in all you do. That will speak louder than all the words in the world. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Wind and Fire

My son paid the latest Mad Max movie probably the biggest compliment any movie can get: it made him want to go out and drive in a stock car race. In other words, it got under his skin. It made him want to do something in the spirit of what he's just seen. I remember as a kid having the same experience, watching “The Three Musketeers” and then wanting to fence in that same elegant and athletic way.

Every creative person wishes that what they make—films, paintings, music, poems, sculpture, dance, even sermons—would both stay with the audience after it's over and better yet, inspire them to respond in some positive way. Most creative people have a moment when what they saw or heard or read something that gave them the desire to do the same thing. Something about it electrified them and they said, “I want to do this too.” Things that resonate deeply with people have a lasting effect on society.

For most of us though, the initial spark we get from an experience tends to die out. We want to be an artist as a child and when we become an adult, we rarely if ever draw or paint anything. We all have had in in the rooms of our childhood musical instruments or science kits or crafts or notebooks or tap shoes that gathered dust, relics of passions that died.

What kept Christianity going? Part of the reason is the resurrection of Jesus, as I said at Easter. There were many others who called themselves messiahs. Their movements died when they did. But Jesus' movement did not. His followers didn't either go back to their old lives nor switch to following the next messiah to appear. They insisted that Jesus rose from the dead. And they insisted on it even when it got them killed. The resurrection of Jesus explains what made the disciples go from frightened men hiding in a locked upper room to fearless proclaimers of the good news of the risen Christ and his offer of eternal life.

The other part of why Jesus is still finding followers today is the subject of this Sunday's lectionary: the Holy Spirit. Human passions fade. Our enthusiasms evaporate. Jesus could have become merely of interest to historians and philosophers after a few generations, his movement as removed from current influence as Mithraism, a popular religion of the Roman troops.

But God sent his Holy Spirit into those who opened their hearts to Jesus in order to transform them into his children and to equip them to do the work he has given us to do.

In the Old Testament God sent his Spirit chiefly to the leaders of his people and to prophets who often chastised those leaders when they led the people astray. But under the New Covenant, God sends his Spirit to all who are in Christ. As the Spirit gives physical life to all God's creatures, so too he gives us new spiritual life. The Spirit gives us the ability to trust in God, to obey him, to repent, to pray and to praise God. He produces in us the spiritual and moral qualities we call the fruit of the Spirit. He puts God's love in our hearts and binds us to Christ and to other Christians. The Spirit reminds us of what Jesus taught us and leads us to the truth.

Without the Spirit, Christianity becomes merely a religion, a cultural artifact made up of rules and customs and structures and innumerable factoids to archive and argue over. The Spirit makes our faith a living thing that grows and reproduces itself in others.

We can quench the Spirit, according to Paul, and I think that during the dark periods of the history of the Church, that's exactly what people do. Because the Spirit can be a headache for those who like to have everything nailed down and categorized and compliant. But the Spirit is like the wind, as Jesus pointed out, moving where it will and disturbing what we have neatly laid out and organized. The Spirit prepared Peter to extend the gospel to the Gentiles by giving a vision of unclean animals being lowered from heaven so he can eat them. This went against the kosher laws that Peter, a good Jew, observed. He had to receive that vision 3 times. And he still wasn't convinced until the Gentiles he was preaching to began to speak in tongues. That was when Peter truly realized that his narrow idea of who made up the church had to be changed.

When life stops renewing itself, when the cells of the body stop replacing themselves, we die. The Spirit gives life and that means we must expect change. Not everything changes. I no longer look like I did as a child but I still have one head, 2 eyes, 2 arms and 2 legs. But I am bigger, my brain is bigger and I hope my thought processes are better adapted to understanding this world. In the same way, though the church must grow not everything will change, but it must get bigger and think bigger and better thoughts. Its heart must expand as well. We are commanded to love everyone and if you are at all perceptive, you realize that is a bigger and more complex task than we used to think. In fact, it is too big for us to do on our own. But with God's Spirit working within and among us, nothing is too big, nothing is too hard, nothing is impossible.

Let us pray.

Holy Spirit of the living God, source of Pentecostal fire, purify our souls, illumine our minds, and set our hearts on fire for the God of love revealed in his son Jesus that we may ignite this same spark in others and keep the flame of the faith burning as a beacon to all who love the light. We ask this in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father and the Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Looking Up

The scripture referred to is Luke 11:1-4.

Today we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord back to his Father in heaven. You might wonder “Why?” If he came to redeem the world, to bring it back to what it was intended to be, why did he leave? Why come back later? Why did he not immediately make the kingdoms of this world into God's kingdom?

Earthly rulers do that. They extend their domains by conquering others. They invade and kill and subjugate people. You don't have to love such a ruler; you just have to obey him... or else. You really don't get a choice. But Jesus' kingdom is built on love. Love doesn't force itself on others. Love offers itself but lets the other person accept or reject it. Entrance into the Kingdom of God is voluntary and God has given us plenty of time to decide if we want to be included. But it isn't like joining Amazon or Sam's Club, where you simply pay your dues and you're in. God's kingdom is, Jesus said, within and among us. It is a matter of being in tune with God's Spirit, the Spirit of Divine Love. If you hate God or his creation or any of his human beings, who were made in his image, you cannot part of his kingdom, no more than you could be a part of Alcoholics Anonymous while simultaneously buying a liquor store and passing out coupons during the meetings.

One way in which we get ourselves in sync with God is by conversing with him in prayer. When his disciples asked him how to pray, Jesus gave us what we call the Lord's Prayer. It is not a magic formula to get God to act as our genie. It is a model for how we should approach God.

It starts by calling God “Father.” We are all created by God but not everyone is a child of God. A child will take after his father in some ways. We see a lot of people who call themselves Christian but are hardly Christlike. When we respond to the love shown us in Jesus, turn to God and offer ourselves to him, he adopts us as his child. He gives us his Spirit. Because of that we can call him Father. We are his and he loves us.

Then we hallow his name. We recognize that God is morally and spiritually on a very different plane than we are. He is holy. He is pure. He is perfect. We need to remember that when we approach him. You wouldn't come in the house from working on your car or digging in the garden and flop down on the couch or even give your spouse a big hug. You're dirty; they're not. You've got to get cleaned up first.

We next pray that God's kingdom come upon earth. We want everyone to stop fighting and cheating and robbing and harming themselves and one another. We want everyone to find the love and peace that we see in Jesus. Since his ascension, spreading that kingdom of love and peace is our task. We need to remember that.

We are not wholly spiritual beings like the angels. We are not merely physical beings like the other animals. We are, as C.S. Lewis put it, amphibians, beings at home in both the physical and spiritual realms. So it is appropriate to ask God for our physical needs, like our daily bread. God has not forgotten that we require food, sleep, shelter and all the rest. He does not resent us asking for them either, anymore than you would be upset if your child said he was hungry and ready for lunch.

We then ask for forgiveness. We spoke of how we need to get clean when approaching God. We can't undo all the evil we have done. Only Jesus can and on the cross he has taken upon himself the brunt of the spiritual damage we have done to this world. So we can boldly approach the throne of grace and ask for forgiveness.

But notice that there is a condition. We can only be forgiven our sins if we forgive those who sin against us. Why? Because whole point is that we become new creations in Christ. We are to become like him. We are to be merciful and forgiving like him. We are to be peacemakers like him and that's impossible if we bear grudges. If we don't forgive others then we really don't understand forgiveness or what it cost Jesus to forgive our sins.

Finally we ask God not to lead us into temptation. God tempts no one to do evil but we will find ourselves in times that test our faith and commitment to God. What we are really asking is for God to help us get through those times without succumbing. Remember that bad times not only bring out the worst in people but can bring out the best. War affords opportunity for cowardice, corruption and treachery but it also provides opportunity for courage, moral integrity and self-sacrifice. We pray that God will help us to reflect his love and character in all circumstances, both pleasant and trying.

Jesus has passed the baton to us. He has given us our mission: to spread his kingdom by inviting people to respond to the gospel, the good news of God's love, forgiveness and healing through his son Jesus Christ. But we don't have to do this on our own. God has given us his Spirit, the same Spirit which empowered Jesus during his earthly life. And because of that we have direct access to God in prayer. We can ask him for whatever we need and he will provide for us. We also know that he will never leave us or forsake us. He will be with us now and to the end of this age, when we will see his kingdom come on earth. And on that day, as it says in Revelation 21: “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”

Lord, start by making us new. Amen. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Hunt for Redemption

Today is not actually the feast day of the Rev. Robert Hunt (Tuesday was) but one of the things I like about preaching about saints and other notable Christians outside the Bible is that we see how God works through people in all kinds of situations. Robert Hunt was the chaplain of the first successful English colony in America. He preached the first Protestant sermon on this continent and celebrated the first holy communion. But what interested me was the prologue to all that. He had to leave his first parish because his wife committed adultery. He moved; she and their 2 children did not. Then he had to leave his second parish because of an accusation that he had committed adultery with his servant. He was also accused of absenteeism and neglecting his congregation. Not a promising start to his career as clergy.

So why was he chosen by the Archbishop of Canterbury to be the chaplain on this expedition to the New World? I don't know. Maybe the Archbishop thought Hunt wouldn't have the same problems since everyone on the trip was male. Maybe he thought he was expendable. But whatever his deficiencies in his first 2 parishes in England, Hunt rose to the occasion of his position in America. He was praised for resolving numerous disputes among the colonists and keeping the peace. A fire destroyed his library and all his belongings and he didn't complain. The colony suffered disease and starvation and attacks by Native Americans and yet his parishioners recalled Hunt's courage in the face of all these hazards. Most of the inhabitants of Jamestown died that first year. Robert Hunt was one of them. He was only 39. They buried him in the chancel of his church and recently archaeologists have found his bones. Today there is a shrine at the spot in the Historic Jamestowne National Park.

Saints are not perfect people. Jacob was a conman; Noah was a drunk; Moses killed a man and hid the body; Peter denied Jesus while Christ was being tried; Paul was complicit in the murder of the first Christian martyr, Stephen the deacon. God doesn't work with perfect people (not that he has any other kind to choose from). We're all sinners. But God is gracious and though he doesn't need us to accomplish his purposes, he chooses to include us in his plans. He gives us his Holy Spirit and works through us to bring his good news of healing and forgiveness and reconciliation to the world. Jesus even said we would do greater works than he did! How? For one thing, through the sheer number of his believers around the world. Jesus healed hundreds, maybe thousands; church-run hospitals and clinics have healed millions. Jesus fed thousands; Christian food pantries and soup kitchens and charities have fed hundreds of millions. Jesus preached to thousands; today billions have heard the gospel preached.

And, yes, in our churches we have sinners, people who do and say bad and sometimes terrible things. Some are hypocrites. But some are just people who are trying to follow Jesus and stumble. And what do we do when someone falls and repents? We are commanded to forgive them. Heck, Jesus asked God to forgive those who were in the process of crucifying him and they weren't even asking for forgiveness. How can we act less nobly than he?

None of us is perfect. And yet in the New Testament we are all called saints. We are not holy because of what we do. God sanctifies us through his Spirit. God can take an ordinary sinner and do extraordinary things through him or her. All he asks is that we trust him and follow his son wherever he leads us. It may be across an ocean or it may be across that great distance that often comes between us and a fellow human being. Whether we have wronged them or they have wronged us, Jesus calls us to reach out and be peacemakers, like Robert Hunt. And then we too will be called children of God.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Limits of Theology

I can drive a car, as I've said, without understanding precisely how an internal combustion engine works. I do need to know how to turn the engine on, how to steer and brake, the traffic laws and the fact that my car needs gasoline and periodic maintenance to keep it running. Some people have a desire to learn more and fortunately there are books and websites that will let you get into the details.

The essentials of what we Christians believe are in the creeds. These in turn are distilled from the Bible. But even the Bible doesn't explain everything. It tells us that Jesus died to save us from our sins but it doesn't explain precisely how that works. It tells us God exists but doesn't lay down philosophical arguments for his existence. And so when Christian beliefs were attacked, men and women who had philosophical talents often rose to the challenge of defending them with reason. One such person was St. Anselm, a Benedictine monk who was made Archbishop of Canterbury.

I'm not going to do an exposition of his ontological proof of God or his satisfaction theory of the atonement. But they were landmarks in the history of theology and serious theologians must study and consider them even if they disagree with them. And that's important in theology. The creeds give us the bare bone facts that we affirm; theology is the explanations we develop that help us see such things as reasonable to ourselves and others. But theology is generated by humans and it can be fallible. Even in science there is a difference between data and the interpretation of the data. As science progresses, old interpretations of what is going on may be superseded by newer and better interpretations. And the same thing happens in theology.

I myself, as a nurse, have found medical analogies useful in explaining how spiritual things work. Why for instance did Jesus have to die to save us? In scripture there are a lot of references to our need to have a change of heart. In Ezekiel God talks of taking out our hearts of stone and replacing them with hearts of flesh. So what if we think of Jesus has our heart donor? If you have congestive heart failure, the only cure that we presently have is a heart transplant. For that, of course, the donor must die. If our spiritual healing is at all analogous to the way physical healing works, then the idea that the donor of our new life must himself die is a useful metaphor. But if this approach doesn't help you, drop it.

And remember: saying something is a metaphor doesn't mean it's not true; it means you are using a picture to give insight about something that is real but hard to grasp. Those pictures of atoms, looking like planets being orbited by moons, that we see in science textbooks are not really what atoms are like. They are the artist's best attempt to depict something impossible to see with the eye and very difficult to conceptualize.

We cannot and will not know how everything we encounter in this life works. Scientists can't even figure out how consciousness works. How can I be the same person I was at 8 years old when every cell in my body has died and been replaced many times over? Yet you and I remain uniquely ourselves. We get bigger, we grow hair in places that previously had none, our voices get deeper, we get stronger, and then we get wrinkles, we get weaker, we shrink a bit but our loved ones don't say “you are at all not the same person.” Even if our opinions change, our quirks, our sense of humor, our love of certain subjects or hobbies or things in this world persist. We change yet we stay consistently ourselves. We are a paradox. Why do we expect God to be easier to understand than we are?

You don't have to understand everything about a fact to believe it. More importantly you don't have to understand everything about a person to love them. But if you love someone, you want to learn everything you can about them anyway. And if you love God, you want to understand whatever you possibly can about him. Just be prepared to be surprised by him—continually. And never assume you know it all.