The Bible is the story of God’s ever-progressing self-revelation. God wants us to see the whole picture, or at least a bigger and bigger part of the picture. But we can only start to see once we give up believing that we have the whole truth already. To see, we must listen as though we don’t have all the answers yet.
One way to see more of the picture is to pay attention to the ways in which humans outside our frame of reference see God. If you’re not Catholic, pay attention to the Catholics. You may find much in their beliefs with which to disagree. But don’t stop there; look deeper, and be open to the possibility that they’re seeing faces of God that you miss. Could there be something important in the regular practice of confession? Could penance be a step out of guilt and toward freedom? Could the observance of holy days, of rest, of ritual and reverence be more than stodgy rules; could structure sometimes be refreshing instead of stifling?
Pay attention to churches that come from their parts of the world. What’s up with Russian Orthodoxy? Not that you need to join that denomination. But what’s the deal with icons? Are they really as heretical as you’ve always been told, or might there be more to this than you realized? Early icon painters referred to their work as “the Word of God in lines and color.” Icons are said to be written, not painted, and read, or prayed with, rather than prayed to.
What is the African Church seeing that we’re not? What does the Asian Church remember that we’ve forgotten? What do the Jews know about God that we would do well to stay aware of? And geography is not the only direction to stretch; we need not limit ourselves to our own time, either. There are many in the past who have seen God with a clarity that made them unable to go on living their lives as before. Some of them left words that make it possible for us, too, to be changed by their visions. Some of them wrote hymns. Go to a used bookstore sometime, or to Goodwill, or to your parents’ or grandparents’ bookshelves, or even search online: Read the words of hymns. Whether you’ve ever sung them or not, whether you like singing them or not, just read the words. And listen.
It will be worth it. You’ll see.
- Colossians 3:11
- Revelation 5:9-10
The Bible—If you want stories, go to the Old Testament, but be careful—it’s not all PG. If you want poetry, try Isaiah, Psalms or the first chapter of the Gospel of John. The story of the first Christian churches ever is in Acts. If you want words on the living mechanics of belief, read anything after Acts in the New Testament.
Dear Heavenly Father, reveal Yourself to me any way You want. I don’t want to limit You.