“It was chaos in color. His eyes tried unsuccessfully to find some order in this blatant disregard for certainty.” – The Shack, pg. 130
“From the sky we look so organized and brave”— Ain’t that the truth. Well, at least, according to Jason Isbell. It never fails that on every plane ride, this song makes its way onto my playlist, mainly because I’m staring through a window over evidence supporting his claim. Miles and miles of land, cities, roads, and highways that have our fingerprints all over them. Trophies of what we’ve made. There’s something comfortable about the order– beautiful, even. Boxes and rectangles that we have so carefully organized our world into. It’s logical, it’s efficient– it makes sense.
It goes without saying that we crave order– not just in one sphere of life, but in all spheres. If we are honest, we would admit to wanting life to fit the molds and timelines we have thought up ourselves. Because, in our heads, those snapshot expectations are beautiful– they’re logical, efficient– they make sense. But, perhaps that’s precisely the problem.
It’s no wonder that when we approach the conversation of spirituality and religion, we seek that same sense of organization. That same sense of comfort and control over the inevitable messes we so certainly encounter. By means of religious ritual and habit, we are able to give ourselves the platform to begin understanding things that are, by nature, more than us. Bigger than us. And yet, we still explain those overarching realities through a man-made lens of perspective, through which we conclude and maintain our truths and convictions. Why? Because its logical, efficient– it makes sense. But does it?
I’m not sure why I’m saying all this– it’s been months since I’ve felt up to putting words to paper. But, for the moment, I’m going to blame Will Reagan and United Pursuit. If you haven’t taken a few minutes to watch the video posted above, I’d suggest you do so. This band has become a personal favorite of mine, and for good reason. Their words and sounds are nothing short of prayers that echo joy, challenges, and a yearning for more of this unfathomable God that we seem to so incompletely fathom. We fear admitting what we don’t know about God so much, that we compromise faith with the god we box Him in to be.
“Help me let You go, help me give up control… of the God I’ve made You, when my fear has contained You.”
Mmm. The moment we think we have our finger on who God is, we’re on the wrong track. We’re creating something that is only a fragment of what it should be. There is no thought we can conjure that expands to such length, width, or depth, no revelation we can conceive that fully encompasses His nature, and no order we can make of His beautiful mess. Accepting a reality in which we don’t understand is perhaps the perfect invitation for faith in its truest form. An invitation for the colors of God and his realities to find us. We somehow have learned faith as a strong-willed stance on a certain set of beliefs. But I’ve come to understand faith as something quite different– a nimble thing, rather. Something that embraces the ever-stirring uncertainties rooted in the supernatural. Something that can’t be explained or organized outside of an experience. Something that doesn’t always play well with logic, efficiency, or sense. And something that is more real than the most tangible realities we can hold in our hands.
For me, faith comes in brief moments of unspoken understanding– bits and pieces of God’s presence and personality, always illustrated and conveyed in the most profoundly simple environments. Almost as if to say that my misperceptions of the simple further affirm my inability to see all that it holds. It’s a steady interaction with things I don’t understand– a never-ending hallway riddled with doors full of possibilities I can never entirely explore. It’s not a strong-hold on anything– it’s a letting go of everything, a submission to something bigger than my brain and the false sense of control it conjures to offset the fear of not understanding.
Recently, I’ve re-read The Shack years after my first encounter with it. And as much as I’ve enjoyed the spiritual roller-coaster it has taken me on, it has uncovered some inconsistencies in what I say about God and the way I experience Him. Over the past year, I have found myself expecting God to move in certain ways, to reveal His plan at a certain time, to comfort and provide in a specific fashion. When, in reality, experiencing God in those moments had nothing to do with holding onto those expectations. In fact, I’d say it was quite the opposite– throwing those expectations to the wind and realizing that God is smeared with the moment in which we find ourselves allowed me to understand our adept ability to fog our eyes from the possibilities of God. The Shack has reintroduced me to the unorganizable reality that is Him. It has reminded me of a Maker that cannot be squeezed into our thought processes and definitions. A Father who is “different, by far, than our broken conclusions” (thank you, Will Reagan and United Pursuit). It has crumbled my walls that boxed things in, walls that gave me control over my beliefs. And walls that have kept me from experiencing more of this God we have so insufficiently defined.
The quote at the beginning of this post is one of my favorites from the text, as it describes Sarayu (aka– the character representing the Holy Spirit in the book) as a “blatant disregard for certainty.” Dang. What a kick in the crotch to all us Christianese need-to-know-it-alls. When certainty is no longer necessary in not only how we understand our lives but also how we live them, I think we begin to experience spiritual realities in a fuller way. Almost as if we allow ourselves to expand with the horizon we are trying to taste and see more of, instead of restricting what we try to understand with the walls of our stubborn perspectives. The “chaos in color” referenced in the text was exposed in the midst of uncertainty– in the midst of not knowing what the HECK was going on. That’s where the beauty is– in the unknown, in the unfathomable.
There is no joy like the kind that comes from this– that is, throwing your self-made restraints to the wind. For a long time, uncertainty was a burden for me, something that plagued who I was with insecurity and indecision. But that same uncertainty has transformed doubt into possibilities– the kind that come with accepting more than the realities within ourselves. More than our explanations, more than our justifications, more than our fears. I don’t think God ever intended for us to settle for the version of Himself that fits in our mental framework. It’s not in His nature to be minimized, and it’s not in our nature to limit Him.
Wherever you are in life, know this– there is immensely more. The bravery does not come with organization; rather, bravery comes in the humility necessary to not need it. There is surrender in accepting life’s uncertainty, because faith lives there. And where there is faith, there is room to expand, room to explore what you have not yet understood thus far. It’s not about arriving at a certain point. It’s about letting yourself out of your walls to experience each point at its fullest. And where there are no walls– there’s God. Along with all the chaos in color that accompanies Him.
From my highway to yours,