For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Once upon a time there was a frog that lived in a well. Hatched and raised in that well, he knew every inch of it. One day an eagle that had flown far and wide told the frog about the ocean. But the frog imagined the ocean to be but a larger well.
I am a well-frog in recovery. That means that I tend to think of God as but a larger version of you and me, a supersized human. I am prone to imagine that a God who commands billions of galaxies, star clusters and atoms, thinks likes me and loves like me. That is why my faith-walk is increasingly about “repentance”, or, metanoia, changing my mind about God, about life and about me. I want to let God be God, freed from the neat and tidy little boxes and wells I have constructed for Him.
In Scripture the Holy Spirit awakens us to God mysterious and incomprehensible. For instance, take the stunned wonder and worship of the apostle Paul as he is overcome by God’s unfathomability: “How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his way!” (Romans 11:33) Paul revels in the love of Christ “that surpasses knowledge”, praying to know a love that cannot be comprehended (Ephesians 3:19). Paul strains language to its breaking point, trying to somehow describe God’s “indescribable gift” of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 9:15). The apostle of grace knows he is a well-frog coming alive to God’s deep ocean of love.
Paul joins the chorus of prophets, like Isaiah in today’s scripture, who know that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than the heavens. In another place Paul quotes Isaiah’s foretelling of the new life given to us as “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived” (2 Corinthians 2:9, quoting Isaiah 64:4). We are part of a Story far more wonderful than we can even imagine!
I am helped to deal with my well-frog thinking by The Cloud of Unknowing, a 14th century classic by an anonymous monk. There is a line in the book that leaps out to me every time I read it: “God can certainly be loved, but not thought. He can be taken and held by love but not by thought.” The unknown writer adds: “Through God’s grace, our minds can explore, understand, and reflect on creation and even on God’s own works, but we can’t think our way to God.” Ezekiel was another prophet who was on to God’s unknowable greatness. Put on your imagining cap and let yourself be caught up in Ezekiel’s vision of a river flowing from God’s throne.
1Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple; there, water was flowing from below the threshold of the temple towards the east (for temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. 2Then he brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me round on the outside to the outer gate that faces towards the east; and the water was coming out on the south side. 3 Going on eastwards with a cord in his hand, the man measured one thousand cubits, and then led me through the water; and it was ankle-deep. 4Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was knee-deep. Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was up to the waist. 5Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross, for the water had risen; it was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be crossed.
Pondering Ezekiel’s vision I am a well-frog wanting to sing the old hymn of God’s ocean of love for us:
“O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
vast, unmeasured, boundless, free,
rolling as a mighty ocean
in its fullness over me.
Underneath me, all around me,
is the current of Thy love.”
Dearest Holy Spirit, help us repent our well-frog thinking! Help us to sink ever deeper into your unfathomed ocean of love!
Grace and peace,