While this is probably the most important question of them all, it is also the one we are least equipped to answer.
We’ll try. Oh yes we will. Over and over. From our experience and our learning. From reading scripture and studying the scholars. We all will try to answer that question. But we can’t.
This question doesn’t have an answer.
There are only responses.
I’ve stolen this from Brian McLaren who stole it from someone else. But the point is the same: you can ask a question like this all you want, but I won’t be able to give you the answer. But I can give you my response. And that isn’t nothing.
How is it that the most important question of them all is unanswerable?
Well, I think this is actually central to the question of who God is. That God is mysterious. And undefinable. That God can be known intimately and personally, but not easily described or given objective notation.
God’s existence is beyond the finite realm and the limits of our infinite.
Because it seems to me that the nature of God matters not nearly as much as God’s nature.
“God is love” means God is a verb.
Most of us raised on the wicked combination of western philosophy and the scientific method live with the post-enlightenment buzz which comes from evidential analysis and rhetorical consistency. And then we watch as our faith is reduced down to a war between brainless faith and careful reason. So many of us know this is a false dichotomy, but we don’t know where to go next.
We know we can’t prove God’s existence, so we fall prey to a false choice. Much like my favorite riddle: is God able to create a stone which God is unable to lift? Do we obey the contours of a choice which lead to impossible (and limiting) results or do we risk asking a completely different question?
So if God is unobservable and unprovable, we can’t answer the question of “who is God?” by trying to determine “what God is”.
But we can know who God is by how God is revealed.
God is revealed through people.
People who dare to share a radical openness to one another and share the dignity and love given to them.
God is experienced and known through intimate relationships and moments of true surprise and devotion and joy.
While most of us have spent thousands of years spinning our wheels on the material nature of God, we forget that God’s true nature is the material of our faith.
Doing God Stuff.
It is no less like our being asked the question “Who are you?” It invites the limiting properties of our character, our true nature. Our very being can’t be summed up in three words.
So we can’t possibly describe all that is God in three words. For many of us, hearing the phrase “God is love” just doesn’t cut it.
But I think that is the very point. Because if we hear it, not as a noun (what God is: love) but as a verb (who God is: one who loves) we are open to all the complexity and challenge which comes with the word love. With loving our parents when they limit us and later when they are limited. With loving our families when they drive us crazy and when we call them up in a crazed fit.
All the ways we love and struggle to love. To find love and to be loved. To be worthy of one who loves us unconditionally.
Our nature can never be limited to the “who, what, where, when, why, and how”s of our existence. It is told in pictures and stories and tall tales and around campfires and in nursing homes and at our funerals when people who love us share how we have marked their lives.
When we see that about ourselves and each other? Then we can begin to know who God really is.
* * *
Check out more choices we’re invited to make!