// shock and awe

Last night at the youth group that I’m involved in running, we watched Louie Giglio’s DVD “Indescribable”. Maybe you’ve seen it. It’s quite a famous talk, with pictures of stars and everything. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend that you go and watch it now or at least as soon as possible, by clicking here. It is breathtaking.

It is the sort of thing that breaks your brain, though. You literally cannot get your head around it, and it explodes large parts of your theology if you try. It just can’t be done. It’s kind of scary, really. I think it’s what people say when they talk about how God is awesome, because it leaves you kind of stunned, a bit fearful, like you don’t know where to go next.

We sat on the yellow sofas that are getting more and more stained at the year goes on, seven of us in total maybe, and we asked the question to our youth, so, what did you think?

Some people talked about how huge God was. Some talked about how small they were. One guy said that he read Psalm 8 and it said in his bible how many stars they estimated were in the known universe so he calculated the energy that God had when He spoke the world into being. But nobody knew what to do with it. The thing is, that kind of knowledge isn’t the sort of thing that you can just carry around in the abstract. Your brain doesn’t have the words for it.

Every word you could imagine, all the terms that you would ordinarily use to describe God – “good”, “all-powerful”, “omnipotent”, whatever – they all fall apart when it comes to something like that. Your only response is praise, and even then it’s praise in ineloquent, inarticulate words. It’s a little like trying to express the beauty of someone you love – you can try, and there are words that exist to do that, but they all fall short. You can tell the girl in front of you that she is beautiful; you can tell her that she is the most beautiful woman you have ever seen, even. But it still falls short of expressing what she actually is and what you actually want to say…

It’s like when Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey and the disciples cry out “blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” and the Pharisees tell him to shut up, and then Jesus says, “I tell you, if they were silent, the very rocks would cry out.” There are some things so incredible that you just can’t stay silent about them, that the only response is an inelegant cry and a changed life. Where praise – both in words and actions – are the only choice, because staying silent will destroy you.

Last night we asked our youth what they would do with what they had seen. The question was hard, and nobody answered. They stared at their feet and changed the subject. It’s not surprising. Because something so shocking, so awe-inspiring, it breaks your theology. If you see it, you can’t go back, and that means that you can’t go back to the place where things are comfortable, where things are easy and they make sense and you can go on in the same way that you have always done.

Meister Eckhart once wrote, “that which we cannot speak of we must leave in silence.” Peter Rollins disagrees. He wrote, “that which we cannot speak of is the one thing about whom and to whom we must never stop speaking.”

We either refuse to process what we have seen of God and we go on in the methods, structures and ideas that we have relied upon for some time, or we continue on into greater awe, greater wonder, greater mystery. The awe is a place of real fear, where the ending is uncertain and we do not know what will come next or how we will deal with it. But it is the fear of God, and I believe that is the beginning of wisdom.

I will never understand God completely – but I know enough of Him to know that He is incredible, and He is good. That is not an endpoint, it is just a starting point. I am excited to know more of Him, and the more I see the ways that He is at work the more amazed I am. I am less interested in knowing all the attributes of God in abstract than I am in seeing them stretched across the world, in those heavens that display the glory of God. My praise is inadequate, but I will keep praising Him nonetheless. I have spent too long trying to decipher God, and not enough time trying to know Him.

I hope I am still able to change.

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