God is Invisible
I was on the road early this morning. I had an appointment on the far southeast corner of Indianapolis with Sister Carol Falkner, the director of the Benedict Inn and Retreat Center, Beech Grove, Indiana. Sister Carol has served as a teacher, principal, assistant director, and prioress of the Benedictine community. She has lived, loved, and embraced the Benedictine life for over fifty years. She is no novice. Within thirty seconds of our time together, I realized that she was not only marked with Christian maturity and hospitality, but a refreshing youthfulness to stay close to Christ and help others do the same. We talked for almost an hour before we went to prayer time, followed by a lunch with the sisters comprised of sloppy joes, onion rings, and veggie sticks. Who knew that monastics were so normal? I quizzed Sister Carol about Benedict’s impact on her life and how his “Rule” had given shape to her daily Christ-following. I asked her what it was that caused Protestants and Catholics to seek out places like the Benedict Inn and she wisely and succinctly said, “Our country is in chaos. There is an enormous hunger for peace, silence, and solitude with Christ. God can be known.” I told Sister Carol that she had hit a home run in my heart. Here is why.
Week two of my sabbatical has me pondering the second attribute of God from the Ten Commandments. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image…You shall not bow down to them or serve them” (Exodus 20:4-5). Why? Because God is invisible. Nothing I could possibly make with my own hands would be adequate in portraying God. God is too grand, too glorious, and too big to mold Him into something I make through my own resolve. There is no controlling Him. There are no adequate comparisons of Him. There is no managing Him. The background to this unique characteristic of God is the Egyptian and Canaanite attempts to form gods and goddesses of bulls, frogs, falcons, serpents, and jackals. Jehovah God, the God of the universe, was and is not like that. These ancient gods and goddesses were too small, too puny, and too visible. The Egyptians and Canaanites made idols of silver and gold with mouths that could not speak, eyes that could not see, ears that could not hear, noses that could not smell, hands that could not feel, and feet that could not walk. Missed entirely was the fundamental fact that God is invisible.
My sabbatical has become a strong reminder to me that I need to stop, shut-up, listen and look for God. Yes, God is invisible, but He, paradoxically, is also a revealing God. Paul said, “For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:19-20). If I could frame it as a question, it would sound like this. If God is invisible, how does He reveal Himself? Paul would say that God’s general revelation is evident in the details of what God has created. There are glimpses of Him everywhere. Sky, ocean, trees, flowers, grasslands, mountains, rivers, deserts, valleys, and a myriad of other realities all give credence to the Creator’s presence. He leaves traces of Himself in the tiniest facets of what He has called into existence. It is one of the fundamental reasons why I walk to Kickapoo Creek most sabbatical days. I desperately need to stop, shut up, look, and listen for the invisible God.
The invisible God also leaves evidence of Himself in those who seek Him and love Him. Conversations, everyday encounters with other people, folks just like Sister Carol can be an avenue through which He discloses Himself. He is obviously “seen” and “heard” in page after page, story after story of Scripture’s unfolding Gospel narrative. More than anything, though, the invisible God pulls back the curtain on Himself in the revelation of Jesus Christ. Our Lord said to Philip, on the night He was betrayed, “If you have seen me, You have seen the Father” (John 14:7). Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). Strangely and beautifully, our invisible God becomes visible. His “visual display” knows no limits, yet He bathes His Presence in charity. God seeks to do no harm. Ponder that.
I made my way home from Sister Carol and the Benedict Inn after a very long day of listening, praying, reading, and walking. First, though, I required a quick stop at Harry and David’s. Nothing spells out spiritual formation like a detour to sugar heaven. I wanted to pick up a few sweets for the people I love, some red licorice, some dark chocolate pretzels, and some milk chocolate grahams seemed suitable. None of which I can eat. I entered into a holy conversation with the manager and the clerk at the counter. It all started with the manager asking for my email address (eastview.church), which led to an entire conversation about church and my being a pastor. He wanted to know if I was “the” pastor. I said, “No, I am just one of the pastors. I have no “the” in any of my work. He laughed. The conversation migrated quickly toward what he called “religion.” I told him that I was not a religious person, but I had a living relationship with Jesus. Wow, did it become quiet in Harry and David’s! I said, “There was a time when the word “religion” had a positive connotation, but I think it has fallen on hard times. I prefer talking about Jesus.” The next few minutes were entirely holy and God-saturated. A tired Harry and David’s manager and a bored clerk suddenly encountered the invisible God of the universe. Me too. God revealed just enough of Himself. He always does.
God is graciously benevolent in how much He reveals of Himself. Imagine what it would be like if God disclosed all of His glory to us at one time. If God drew back the curtains of His entire Presence, annihilation would be our experience. He, after all, dwells “in unapproachable light” with all of his holiness, sovereignty, wisdom, power, and beauty (1 Timothy 6:16). All this week I am striving to be more alert to the presence of God who gives enough of Himself that I only hunger for more. Today in Indianapolis at the Benedict Inn and later at Harry and David’s, I chose to stop, shut up, look, and listen. My prayer then and now is a simple one. “Invisible God, grace me to see and to hear enough of You, so that I am eager to worship You and quick to witness of You. Amen.”