Who am I, to know the Lord our God?
In awe of you I stand in silence.
And yet the Gospel says you sent your son for me
That I might be a child of God.
I believe in the Bible, I believe in your love;
I believe in your steadfastness and sovereignty.
I believe your mercy endures forever,
And I believe your grace is free —
So ‘bold, I approach th’eternal throne,’
Or I would, but I’m not sure where it is.
Through all the clouds, I cannot see you sitting there.
Someday I’ll see your face in heaven,
And then, oh, then, I will know you.
I will tremble, and you —
In spite of it all, you will love me.
I will tremble, fall on my knees —
In spite of it all, you will love me.
© 1996 Marcy Prochaska, all rights reserved.
I am more like Job than Moses.
Moses talked to God, and God talked to Moses. Moses saw God’s “back,” saw his presence in the burning bush, glowed with his glory when he came down from Sinai. Moses saw God do amazing and specific things that he announced ahead of time, things that were of great significance to an entire nation and the world beyond.
Job saw God’s finger in the circumstances in his own individual life. He knew that God is sovereign, that God gives and takes away. He knew that God is righteous and just. But most of his life he lived by faith, without any direct, unambiguous contact or communication with God.
God does appear to Job. He hasn’t appeared to me (yet), but I imagine I’d get some of the same answer. The answer that cuts, that hurts, the hard bright truth that God is God and I am not. But it is also the answer that reassures — that God is in fact God, that he is in fact righteous and just, as Job thought he was, even in these current nasty circumstances. The very fact that God appears and speaks at all is great mercy. And mercy on top of mercy! –God praises Job for his honesty, for speaking the truth as he perceived it — and he corrects his perceptions. Perhaps even the devastations were great mercy, drawing out this deep thirst for the righteous God he’d perhaps only casually talked about and believed in previously. Mercy, for God to so work in our lives that we cannot ignore him any longer.
Someone once told me that even if God spoke to me directly, soon enough I would doubt that experience and think it was a hallucination or a demon. So perhaps it is great mercy that God shows up in my life only as an ambiguous finger, sovereign over circumstances. One of my images for this ambiguous experience is the psychologist behind the one-way mirror. God, like the psychologist, arranges my room and the objects in it, because he cares about me and knows me and is treating me, but I don’t see his face — yet. My job is to trust this faceless doctor, based on what I know is true about him and our relationship.
Paul said he knew Jesus (Philippians 3:8). He met him once in a vision. But in what sense did he know him? Was it the way Job knew God, in the sense of knowing who he is, knowing his character, and having the one grand vision to confirm it all? Or were there more unrecorded conversations, more direct, unambiguous experience, like Moses had, like some evangelicals claim to have? Or when Paul said “the surpassing value of knowing Christ,” did he refer to something not yet consummated, the coming full knowing we’ll have in heaven (1 Corinthians 13:12)?
My old journals are full of the question, what is our relationship with God supposed to be like — more like Job or more like Moses? I didn’t want to settle for a life of “belief only,” if it’s possible to know God more directly and unambiguously. But perhaps not everyone is meant to have that kind of relationship. Most people in the Bible didn’t.
I think I’m a little more at peace with the life of “faith only” now. Not having direct and unambiguous experience of God doesn’t have to imply that he’s not there and that my faith is all hogwash. And yet I hope I never stop thirsting to see him, and I hope that he will so sanctify me that I will be able to see him if he shows himself to me.
By the way, the last line of this song was inspired by one of those Christian party questions — imagining what you will do when you see Jesus in heaven. Run, dance, sing, shout, hug him, what? My immediate answer was that I’d fall to my knees and hide my face. He’d have to come running to me, because I don’t think I’d have the faith to run to him. It’s like seeing someone you admire at a party, and you’re afraid to approach because of all the important people there, in-crowd people, his real friends, and you’re insecure about your own welcome.
Another by the way: read Til We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis. There’s a part in the middle that offers another way to view the active yet unseen God: as Cupid, invisible to Psyche, yet her passionately loving husband.