God has revealed Himself, both by reflection in the creation and by revelation in the Scriptures, to be omniscient, omnipresent, all wise, transcendent, immanent yet unknowable, holy, loving, just, eternal, infinite, all powerful. Everything that is true of Him is true of all that He is. He is the Creator, who is Himself uncreated.
At my best, thinking about Him leads me to worship Him, to be aware of my weakness and wretchedness before Him, and yet to know that He loves me and that His love imparts honor and value. Awe, fear and joy fill me in equal measure.
At my worst, I fall into the frame of mind and heart I had before I knew Him. Far too often, I forget Him and everything He’s given to me. Of the two of us, He alone is faithful.
My heart has its own way of learning. Unlike my mind, my heart learns from what I experience, and then tends to view everything accordingly. When hurt enough by others, I begin to expect the same from everyone. When touched enough by the love of God, my heart learns to see His love everywhere. It’s a double-edged sword.
My heart can only learn what is true of God from a lifelong process of experiencing His presence, mostly by prayer and worship, but also in the mundane. The best that my mind can do is to provide a framework for evaluating and discerning whether or not what I have experienced as God is in fact God. Apart from validating my experience against the Scriptures, my mind has little to do with knowing Him.
In short, my mind knows about Him, but my heart knows Him.
The mind learns much more quickly than the heart. It took me about a year to gain a fair mental understanding of God’s nature, and over twenty years so far dealing with my heart. I still read and study everything I can find that seems relevant to knowing Him, but it remains much more difficult to teach my heart.
My heart is far less causal in its responses. I’ve been blessed with many experiences of God’s love for me. Yet, often my heart would seem unaffected, as if all the love of God was wasted on me. On the other hand, I have found the most subtle sense of His presence change me profoundly, as if the slightest touch of His love was enough for my deepest needs. This is a mystery that has grown larger to me over the years, that my heart is as likely, or more likely, to learn from the hidden experience as from the visible. That I can learn in the deepest sense without knowing about it is strange, wonderful and humbling.
Mystery is at the heart of life with the Lord. Where He and I touch, there is always a point of tension, and a “Cloud of Unknowing”. As Christians, we are always in danger of having pat answers to every question. We often assume that we have more to share than we have to learn. Yet, in reality, where man and God touch, the answers are all wrapped up in Him, and that means that, in many ways, we confront and must embrace the unknown and unknowable. What is impossible for man is possible for God.
I believe that my faith can be measured in part by how much peace I have with my lack of understanding, by my ability to live at the point of tension.
In my weakness and frailty and limited godliness, I find that my thoughts all too often follow closely behind my feelings, and that they often reflect little of the truth. When I’m afraid, I tend to forget that His promises are made to me, and that He can be trusted. When I’m frustrated, I tend to think that He’s playing games with me. When I’m angry, I tend to question His love for me. And so it goes.
I know that my character is indicted by my failure, not His. True godly character, once worked in me by Him, will mean that all my thoughts and feelings will be subject to His truth and will. What I cannot do in myself, He plans to do for me. Each of His commands is impossible for me to obey, and comes with a promise that I will be enabled to obey. This too is a mystery.
When I’m in His presence, when my heart is yielded to His touch, which I generally find both effortless and impossible, I feel perfectly at home, comfortable in a way that I never feel anywhere else. In His presence, I feel what He feels, not what I feel. The closer I draw toward Him, the further I draw away from myself. This too is a mystery.
When it comes to those I love most, my wife and my kids, I find it difficult to enter His presence. I know that I need to give them to Him, in the sense of trusting Him with their welfare, but I often can’t let go. It seems that the more I love them, the less I can entrust them to the Lord, and the less faith, power and effectiveness I have in prayer. This too is a mystery.
“…so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God,
26 that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints,
27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Col 1:25-27). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.