Who Is God?
Mar 14, 2012
When I was young I asked my mother: How come God is the one who’s God, instead of somebody else?
I don’t remember what she said, and I still don’t know the answer, unless the answer is “That’s the wrong question.” Or: God is not the kind of being who might have been otherwise. Or: God isn’t any kind of being, He’s just Being, full stop.
I often find myself still asking the same question, but in a different form: Who is God? Not what is He — infinite Being, thought-thinking-thought, I AM — but who? The question arises when I suddenly come to myself and remember that Christianity is meant to be, at bottom, a love affair rather than a legal case.
But with whom am I in love?
If he is perfect, must he not be somehow scrubbed clean of idiosyncracies? If he is infinite, then he must somehow be all-things, and if he is all-things, what can be special about him? When we like somebody, don’t we like them for the shape of their nose, or the oddness of their voice, or their particular raucous laugh?
Then how can we like God?
Now of course liking is not loving. “Love your enemies” doesn’t imply liking them (although liking sometimes follows from loving: let the will lead, Fr. T often tells me, and the heart will follow). But wouldn’t a perfect love include liking as well? Agape is all very well, but — well, I’d be disappointed if my eternal love affair with God turned out not have any eros in it.
Two answers suggest themselves, and neither is complete.
The first is, of course, Jesus. Nobody who has read the New Testament with any real attention, engaging their imagination as well as their intellect, would call Jesus bland or featureless. His manner of speech is as peculiar and particular as the smell of cilantro or pipe tobacco. How can the Infinite have a personality? I don’t know, but there He is. And when we see Jesus in all his particularity — we are seeing the Father.
The second answer is harder to define. It involves a knowledge of God that is a kind of knowledge-by-longing. I can only say that when I hear this:
As the deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
…then, Oh, I know who that is. Who is God? He’s the one that I want. He is the one who is wanted. He is the one for whom Wanting was made. He is — He.