I have been giving much thought in the last few weeks to the question: Who can know the mind of God?
It is an important one to be sure for everyone at all times, but more so for me at this time of transition in my life.
How can I know God’s intentions, his plans, more, his desires for me? If I wish to follow, then this is critically important.
My life, to this point would suggest that I have discerned the Spirit poorly, flitting from Catholicism, the religious community, away, and then to the Episcopal Church and now turning back homeward.
But I wonder, does it really?
Today’s first reading poses the question more starkly perhaps than anywhere in the Hebrew Testament.
What human being indeed can know the intentions of God? And who can comprehend the will of the Lord? For the reasoning of mortals is inadequate, our attitudes of mind unstable; for a perishable body presses down the soul, and this tent of clay weighs down the mind with its many cares. It is hard enough to know what lies within our reach; who, then, can discover what is in the heavens? And who could ever have known your will, had you not given Wisdom and sent your holy Spirit from above? Thus have the paths of those on earth been straightened and people have been taught what pleases you, and have been saved, by Wisdom. (Wis. 9: 13-18)
These words of Solomon echo in my heart as well. How, how Lord can I understand what I am to do?
I am cautioned not to rely on reason. Paul and many prophets have said as much. We are to be fools for Christ, meaning that the way of the cross is in direct contradiction to right reason. Through utter humiliation, salvation and the right path lies. We are to turn the other cheek, repay evil with good, all unreasonable, yet true.
Does this mean that our minds are worthless?
I think not. I think those who wish to contain God in a book would like to think so. The fundamentalist makes fun of learning and education, pointing to all the passages that warn of intellectual knowing. They are desperate to understand God by simple reading of the text.
Yet, I think they are wrong. God would not give us fine minds if they were not meant to be used. We are to use all our powers of discernment in finding our way in the world. We are to work with our minds to create a world in which all are free, fed, clothed, housed, attended to, as needed.
But when we seek to understand who we are and who God is, we must suspend our rational mind, because God is simply bigger than we can grasp. He is the contradiction and the paradox. We approach him with metaphor as the writers of various Biblical books did.
And where does that leave me?
I can conclude, and sometimes I do, that I am poorly translating the Spirit’s lead. I am misunderstanding somehow. But perhaps I am merely going through my learning, correcting my errors.
I am not suggesting that the Spirit directly sets us up for pain and suffering as a means to teach us lessons. No, I do not believe in a meddling God such as that.
What I do believe is that when we get some notions that are wrong, if they will become teaching moments, the Spirit remains quiet, and lets us lead ourselves into the abyss. Always ready and willing to lead us out again, to be sure, but we learn by our own willful choice.
And what have I learned? Perhaps humility. I came to Catholicism with a serious believe that it was the best and the first Church. I never let go of that. Even in ecumenical settings where I professed a belief that God reaches to people in all manner of ways, I still clung arrogantly but quietly to the smug belief that I was the better Christian by faith.
Worshiping as a Protestant and seeing things from the other side, has done much to help me to break from that ugly belief. For indeed, I do not claim any Christian faith, and certainly no non-Christian faith better than another. Only better for me, me alone, with my peculiarities and personal quirks.
I am drawn back to Catholicism because, somehow it resonates more deeply in me than any other. Not because it is the best or first. For indeed I don’t believe I could prove that if I wished to.
For those who can’t figure out why I am leaving a perfectly wonderful tradition in the Anglican Church, I can only say, that it has nothing to do with them. It has everything to do with where I am called.
Unless of course, this is but another false path in my wandering journey. Then I will, with God’s grace, learn the lesson held out for me. Until then, I do my best, more humble now for sure, knowing that I don’t know, I only believe.
Somehow God assures, that is enough.