When people think of my “home state”, Washington, (especially those NOT from Washington) more than likely the iconic image of tall evergreen trees, mountains, the Puget Sound and the bustle of Seattle are the first things that come to mind. However, I grew up on the other side of the state, the east side, east of the cascade mountain range that traps clouds and separates the lush green coastal forest from the fertile high plateau that covers the rest of the state. Where I grew up is dry, filled with sage brush and low-lying, wind-blown bluffs (or what Hoosiers call, “mountains”). So, you see, to define Washington as “Seattle” is ridiculous…it is a small part of a state that is twice the size as Indiana.
When I used to travel to Washington to visit my now-deceased parents, it always took a little time to adjust to the inevitable fact that we all had aged. One time I arrived, my Dad was standing in the airport as I walked right up to him…he didn’t recognize me until I spoke. As for them, I had a certain picture in my mind as to who my parents were and what they looked like…that picture in my mind didn’t change at the same rate they did…so there was always a period of adjustment for me, at each visit, to realize that they were the same people. They were still the fine, deeply-faithed, salt-of-the-earth characters they had always been…but more. To have only known them in their 40’s or 50’s would be the same as meeting them in their 80’s…they were more than they were then, and (as they would admit) a little less. In the same way, I, even as their son, didn’t really know them wholly…I didn’t know them like their congregation knew them, or like their friends knew them, or the young couple of neighbors who would come over every-once-in-a-while and fix, visit, keep in touch.
States and people are simple concepts compared to God, they are finite entities compared to the infinite, they are “local” compared to omnipresent…so why do any of us arrogantly claim to have exclusive knowledge of Him?
Is the majestic Mt. Rainier the definition of Washington State, or the life of a retired Postman the definition of Tom Vale? Of course not, but those definitions are sometimes the limit of person’s perception and knowledge. You may see the Space Needle as Washington and I see the Columbia River…we are BOTH wrong if we think those things totally define the great state. You may have known my mother as a good cook, and known her as my Mom…we are BOTH right, yet neither of those things really and truly define her.
God is beyond description, and to complicate matters even more, He deals with each of us individually, specifically and without prejudice. To the blind who came to Jesus, He is the Healer…although He healed one through touch alone and another by spitting in the dirt and putting mud in his eye. They both saw a different part of Jesus, but to divide the believers by claiming that Jesus ONLY heals through mud or ONLY heals through touch is to make God smaller than He is and to deny His greatness.
And for all that…the Church does that all the time: one congregation claiming that the God who does “this or that” is the only God, and any other definition is heresy. If people and places are complex enough that one-hundred people might describe them one-hundred ways, then isn’t it just possible all of us only have a glimpse of what we try so desperately to define…not so that we will KNOW GOD (our one purpose on this earth) but so that we can claim “right” against the “rights” of people who are not like us? In doing so, we offend our Heavenly Father.
The best part is this…when we open minds and hearts to the possibility that someone might have discovered a part of God that we have not seen, then the hunger and thirst in our souls that longs to know Him and be known by Him grows; we are satisfied and stretched at the same time. To narrow the personality of God is to narrow life to only the “possible”. To judge another according to their perception of how God works is to dismember the ONE Body of Christ.
There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. EPHESIANS 4:4-6