Recently, we had a theologian, Douglas Jacoby, from our church in Atlanta, come speak to the church in Paris. The man is smart. He got his Masters degree from the Harvard Divinity School and is naturally of an analytical mind. He spoke on Reason, Science, and God.
What he said, in grossly simplified terms, is that the first 12 chapters of the Bible are a story God gave us according to our limited understanding – as a father would give a child – not a factual account of how the earth came into being. If you’re interested in this stuff, you can check out his website here. I won’t say anything further because it was done quickly, with the French translation sometimes overlapping onto the English, and I don’t feel confident in my ability to summarize.
I will say this. When he showed a cartoon (in English, to the French-speaking audience) of two dinosaurs staring at Noah’s Ark in the distance, and one of them said, “Oh, crap. Was that today?” I was the only one who laughed. 🙂
One thing that struck me is that he said sometimes God’s Word is poetical rather than literal. (Again, this is my understanding of the discourse – please refer to his website for the more complex matters). He used the example of God’s eyes ranging throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. (This is in 2 Chronicles 16:9). I know this verse, and I love the image. I love the idea of God’s eyes following me around, strengthening my heart against fear and sadness.
But Douglas said that God doesn’t have eyes the way we have eyes. And when the Bible talks about God writing us on the palm of his hand (Isaiah 49:16), he doesn’t have a palm or a hand – not like we do. He is Spirit, not physical.
And that kind of bothers me.
If God is not physical like we are (although I’ve always known he was not, so bear with me as I make a detour from logic), then he’s unpredictable. He’s not something I can identify with. He’s like the God character, Sunday, in G.K. Chesterton’s book, “The Man Who Was Thursday” that I read so many years ago when I was searching for God. Confusing.
Good, but not appearing to be good.
Or worse – he’s like Elizabeth Hurley playing the devil in Bedazzled (one of the funniest movies of all time IMO). Not only is she unpredictable, she appears nice and helpful in assisting Brendan Fraser get the girl, all while turning everything he desires on its end.
Oh you want to be rich so she likes you? Here! You’re heading a Spanish drug cartel. And you’re married to your girl, but she hates your guts and is having an affair with her English teacher.
So rich is not good enough? You just want to be a nice guy so she’ll like you for who you are? Here. I’ll make you into such a pansy that she can’t wait to get away from you and into the arms of someone more shallow.
So you want to be more masculine because pansies don’t get the girl? I’ll turn you into a slobbering jock who is so big and stupid he can barely speak. And the comedy goes on.
But what makes great comedy turns sour when it’s our lives we’re talking about.
We know and must accept that in some ways God is unpredictable. People we love die, and parts of us die with them. We get sick. We get abused. We get cheated. We get abandoned. Our plans are thwarted. We lose hope of breathing again, so buried are we in grief. We lose hope of seeing light again, so crushed are we by darkness. Our hopes rise and dwindle and rise again as we read this:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Is 55:8-9)
I think this is why God gave us Jesus. We needed tangible proof that He is Love. However his thoughts and ways – so much higher than ours – may manifest itself, we are and will always be rooted by his love through Jesus.
Jesus is the tangible God we can cling to, like Mary did after he was resurrected. He is the tangible being we can cry out to when we are afraid, like his disciples did in the storm. He is the tangible being we can reason with, like the Canaanite woman did who wanted her daughter to be healed and refused to take no for an answer. He is the tangible being we can cry with, the way Jesus cried with Mary and Martha when Lazarus died. He is the tangible being we can learn from when he sits on the mountainside and tells us how to be children of God.
He’s so tangible, he promises, “I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.” (John 14:18)
He’s so tangible, he came back in physical form after he was resurrected. As Paul wrote:
Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (I Corinthians 15)
I’ve been wrestling with the unpredictability of life, and facing my fears head-on.
I said goodbye to Juliet and sent her off to Barcelona for an opportunity to dance under the tutelage of teachers from the Opéra de Paris. (She has told me she likes flamenco best of all her classes).
Just so you fully grasp what I’m saying here, This girl got on a plane all by herself. THIS girl.
I’ve been wrestling with the fear that the work on our house will not be completed – there are delays that are out of our control, and even out of our contractor’s – and that our house will always look like this:
A photo posted by Jennie Goutet (@aladyinfrance) on
(* As a reminder, if you’re reading this from e-mail, the images from Instagram won’t appear and you need to click over to my blog in order to view them).
I wrestled with – and faced – my fear of going out on my own. It’s not a big fear. Enough to make me pause before saying yes, or see if there’s wiggle room to get out of it, but not enough to make me say no.
I drove into Paris alone. I’ve gone enough times, but while there are places I’m used to, and know it will be easy to find parking, there are places that still intimidate me, like the roundabout at the Arc de Triomphe with ten lanes, no lane lines, and priority for those coming into the roundabout over those of us who are already in.
It’s also intimidating driving into (and finding parking in) a densely populated area, like the 6th arrondissement near St Germain.
A photo posted by Jennie Goutet (@aladyinfrance) on
But once I was actually driving and got to soak in sites like this, I realized I was going to be okay.
And once Juliet’s texts got happier as she acclimated, I found she was going to be okay too. Most of the time, everything is going to be alright and the world is in balance.
And when we’re terrified, it’s because we forgot who God is. We focus on his unpredictability and not on his love.
And when we forget who God is … we need only look at Jesus to remember.
God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. (John 3:16)
The Lord takes care of those who are not aware of danger. When I was in great need, he saved me. (Psalm 116:6 NIRV)
Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. (Psalm 112:6-7)