Recently, I have been participating in the women's bible study on Wednesday mornings at CPC. We are using Priscilla Shirer's study One in a Million and I am really enjoying it. In our video lessons on Wednesdays, she is challenging us to compare our journey to Promised Land living with the Israelites' wilderness trek to Canaan after God delivered them from slavery in Egypt.
Today in the video, she used an illustration that I found compelling and, in order to cement it in my mind, decided to share here. Her suggestion to the viewer was that our view of God- His ability, His power, His capacity- is shaped by everything we have learned up to this point in our life. In addition to our personal experiences, our view of God is influenced by the testimonies of our friends and family, by the teaching of our denomination, by our exposure to scripture and by the ways we interpret His presence in the world around us. This understanding of God is unique to each of us and she suggested that we carry our picture of Him around in our "God box." Our boxes are different sizes and shapes, mine subtly or perhaps drastically different from yours. As we go through our life, every experience is filtered through our "God box" and we carry it with us into every aspect of who we are. If we see God at work in our lives, it is most often through the lense of what we already know about Him.
But, here is the thing: God doesn"t fit in boxes!
As she has said several times during this study, God is predictable in His character, but not in His actions. God is a God of endless creativity and reserves the right to show up in a way in which we would least expect Him. Unfortunately for us, we often allow our ability to see Him to be limited by the size and shape of our "box." We become complacent in our spiritual walk because God seems to be doing the same old stuff He has always done. Good stuff perhaps, but nothing new.
This conversation about our God boxes in today's video was in the context of how the people in our life influence our view of God. Do we surround ourselves with people who help us to increase our view of God...people who stretch our "God box" by showing us new ways to see our "bigger than a box" God? Additionally, what kind of influence are we in the lives of others? Do we, by our testimony to the work of God in our life, help others to increase their view of God...to grow and stretch their "God box?"
As we discussed this illustration later in our small group, I figured out why this was so meaningful for me. In the past two years, I have struggled to share with my closest Christian friends my experience of serving at the Lamb Center. Because sharing what God is doing in our lives is part of the glue that holds these precious friendships together...the very DNA of who and what our friendship is based on...I have felt drawn to share the enormous impact that this experience has had on my life. Yet, when I try to talk about it, I find that I often struggle to put it into words. In addition, I often feel that my friends interpret my passion for the work that the Lamb Center is doing as some sort of attempt to recruit them or convince them to join me there, though this is far from true. While I believe we are all called to serve the Lord in some capacity, I am equally clear that we are all called to join His work in the way that means most to us. I love this quote from Frederick Buechner: "The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet." FOR ME, sharing God's Word around that table is where my deep gladness meets the world's deep hunger.
But, I digress....(imagine!) This illustration about putting God in a box meant so much to me today because my time at the Lamb Center has busted my "God box" wide open! THAT is what I have been wanting to share. My friends around the Lamb Center table have filled their "God box" with some life experiences that differ from mine. Their experience of God and the ways that they are seeing Him at work in their lives today stretch my perception of God to such a degree that He no longer remotely fits in the box that I had built for Him after 40 + years of traveling this journey. The ways in which He provides every single need for the Lamb Center...from the shortage of paper plates, to the need for one more person to work in the laundry...challenges every preconception I had about the way God works in the lives of His people. The deep hunger for His word, for His hand, for His healing that I experience every time I sit around that table and the way He continually meets those needs, has changed the way I see Him. I am changed because I can't find a big enough box for this God anymore. I just can't wait to see what He is going to do next!
So there it is. For me, part of my journey to the Promised Land is to remain amazed, astounded, expectant about the new and different ways that God might show Himself. I'm not sure, but I think that is what we mean when we talk about the "glory of God." Glory!