Who Are You, God? Infinity!

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Jonathan Edwards believed that of all the forms of knowledge, knowledge of God and knowledge of self are the most important.  After taking a few months off from our Who Are You, God? essay series, it’s back!  Grow your perspective and understanding of the infinity of God with this essay that Kathy wrote back when she was a student in college.  Enjoy! – Arthur

Who can fathom infinity?

In The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis ends his Chronicles of Narnia series with a picture of infinity. Three of the Pevensie children have finally entered into the presence of Aslan, the “Great Lion” of Narnia, forever. C.S. Lewis writes, “All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

Can you imagine reading a book like that—that goes on forever and in which every chapter is better than the one before? You’d never stop reading!

Or, if you don’t like reading, look up into the sky at night. Can you imagine counting all the stars in the universe? You’d never stop counting! Or, for all you chemistry-lovers, can you imagine writing out all the possible amino acid sequences that make up proteins and all the possible nucleotide sequences that make up our DNA? Can you wrap your mind around numbers like 41000000?

Imagine counting the sand from a massive desert sand dune, where the grains are so fine that getting them in your socks and shoes are not bothersome at all, but rather soothing. I’ve tried counting my handful of sand before, and let me tell you, sand is not meant to be counted. Neither are stars and neither are molecules. I think they are meant to give us a picture of infinity, to blow our minds about the greatness of who God is, to blow our minds that He who created and sustains all things knows us intimately, and to blow our minds that we know Him and call Him our Father. Who can grasp such magnanimity? “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, it is too high, I cannot attain to it!” Ps. 139:6.

The Psalmist has also exclaimed, “How precious also are your thoughts to me O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand!” (Ps. 139:17-18) He says that God’s thoughts are vast, too numerous to count, as sand is, because God is infinite! And we know Him. God says, “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.” (Jeremiah 9:23). And Jesus prayed, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)

Knowing God is eternal life. Furthermore, the knowledge of God can’t be exhausted! There are infinite facets of His love, grace, kindness. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33) Just as C.S. Lewis described heaven as a book without an end that contains chapters in which the next is always better than the one before, I think something similar is happening for us when we come to salvation and enter into eternity—we will forever be knowing God, not merely knowing about, but intimately knowing in new ways that we have not known before! When we enter Heaven, intimate knowledge of God will continue to be a perpetual novelty. What blows my mind is that as my knowledge of the infinite God increases, my love and adoration for Him will also increase…forever and fully! It makes sense then that Charles Spurgeon would say that “The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can engage the attention of a child of God is the name, the nature, the person, the doings, and the existence of the great God which he calls his Father.” For the Christian, knowing God is no simple and tiresome feat. In fact, we are characterized by who we know God to be, just as A.W Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

We know God to some degree because He first knew us and we love because He first loved us. Our whole life should be a hunger to know and love Him. If that is so, why is it that so few of us can fervently say with David, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Ps 63:1)? Or “My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times” (Ps 119: 20)? Those are intense words, if sincere. We have only to measure ourselves against Scripture to see how far away we are from truly knowing our Savior, and God. Do we desire knowledge of God to the point that we can say we thirst, faint, and hunger for Him? Few of us can declare such truth in our life and use such intense language. Where does David get that passion? This much I know, we can only hunger and thirst and yearn for that which we have already tasted, and seen and known. How can we hunger and yearn for chocolate or frozen yogurt if we have never tasted how good they are? “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!” (Ps 34:8) Have you tasted and seen that the Lord is good?

Furthermore, our soul can only thirst and our flesh can only faint for God alone if we find and seek our only satisfaction in Him. How can the degree of our yearning to know our Father be like David’s if we are constantly seeking satisfaction and delight elsewhere? One thing He has revealed about Himself time and time again is that He is a jealous God, desiring our full devotion, submission, love, delight, and obedience. God is El Qanna, a jealous God.

If ever I shall thirst, I pray that my soul shall thirst for God. If ever I shall faint, I pray that my flesh would faint for God. He is the greatest Person in the universe to know and love. So, who is this God that David thirsts and faints for?

It will take a lifetime and more to answer that question fully. The Great Story begins now. For “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” (Augustine)

– Kathy

 

 

Consider the Lilies

It was a Saturday morning and some of my family were out on a walk around the more secluded parts of the beautiful Orange Grove area of Pasadena, when suddenly Sandra started reading “Consider the Lilies,” written by our friend, Jill Carattini, out loud and without warning.  It spoke to us and graciously but firmly, like an iron hand in a velvet glove, elicited tasteful discomfort in my conscience, knowing full well that I succumb to the “anxious preoccupied life” it seeks to help detour.  Well, it succeeded, and I pray that it would keep succeeding in my life.  If you need a fresh and fragrant rescue from the tyranny of the now, read on. 

And for those of you non-readers (i.e. video watchers), please begin training yourself to be able to read.  It will serve you very well, especially if you are to behold a fuller, more complete expression of the delights of the Word Himself. – Arthur  

Wendell Berry has written a poem that haunts me frequently.  As a creative writer, the act of paying attention is both a spiritual and professional discipline. But far too often my aspirations for paying quality attention to everything dissolves into something more like attention deficit disorder. As it turns out, it is quite possible to see and not really see, to hear and not really hear. And this is all the more ironic when my very attempts to capture what I am seeing and hearing are the thing that prevent me from truly being present. Berry’s poem is about a man on holiday, who, trying to seize the sights and sounds of his vacation by video camera, manages to miss the entire thing.

…he stood with his camera preserving his vacation even as he was having it so that after he had had it he would still have it. It would be there. With a flick of a switch, there it would be. But he would not be in it. He would never be in it.(1)

I sometimes wonder if one of the most quoted sayings of Jesus is not often employed with a similar irony. “Consider the lilies,” Jesus said, “how they grow; they neither toil nor spin. Yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field…will he not much more clothe you?  Therefore, do not worry” (Matthew 6:28-31). Typically, Jesus is quoted here as giving a helpful word against worry. And he is. But worry is not the only command he articulates. Consider the lilies, he said. We hear the first instruction peripherally, hurriedly, as mere set up for the final instruction of the saying. And in so doing, we miss something great, perhaps even something vital, both in the means and in the end. With our rationalistic sensibilities, we gloss over consideration of the lilies; ironically, in an attempt to consider the real work Jesus is asking us to do.

But what if considering the lilies is the work, the antidote to anxious, preoccupied lives? What if attending to beauty, to the ephemeral, to the fleeting details of a distracted world is a command Jesus wants us to take seriously in and of itself?

It is with such a conviction that artist Makoto Fujimura not only paints, but elsewhere comments on Mary and her costly pouring of perfume on the feet of Jesus. The anger of Judas and the disgust of the others are all given in rational terms, the cacophony of their reaction attempting to drown out her quiet act of attention: That bottle would have cost over a year’s wages. The poor could have used that money. This sinful woman clings to a holy man’s feet. Does he not see who it is who touches him? Their response to her and her act of beauty exposes their own inattention to a world beyond the one they see—to their own peril. As Fujimura writes, “Pragmatism, legalism, and greed cannot comprehend the power of ephemeral beauty. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness; the opposite of beauty is legalism.  Legalism is hard determinism that slowly strangles the soul. Legalism injures by giving pragmatic answers to our suffering.”(2) The corollary, of course, is that beauty can offer healing; that paying attention, even to fleeting glimpses of glory, is deeply restorative.

When Jesus asks the world to consider the lilies, to consider beauty in the midst of all the ashes around us, his request is full of promise, for he is both the Source of beauty and its Subject. Paying attention to the ephemeral, being willing like Mary to risk and to recognize beauty, is in and of itself restorative because it is paying attention to him. Here, both the anxiety-addicted and the attention-overloaded can find solace in a different sort of kingdom: one in which there is room for the paradox of a fleeting world with eternity in its heart.

But perhaps Jesus also instructs the world to consider the lilies because it is characteristic of God’s concern for us. The daily liturgy of lilies comes with unceasing care and attention for all who will see it, the gift of a God who revels in the creation of yet another flower, the details of another sunset, the discovery of even one lost soul. Consider the lilies; how they grow. They neither toil, nor spin. 

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia. 

(1) Wendell Berry, “The Vacation,” Selected Poems, (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 1998), 157. (2) Makoto Fujimura, “The Beautiful Tears,” Tabletalk, September, 2010.