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God Outside the Box

Her conversation went something like this… “So-and-so is writing a book about her search for the meaning of life.  Her story line is, that having left her Catholic faith as a teen, she took the ‘best of’ from all the various religious practices she could find. Then she designed her own spirituality.”

And so it goes.  Maybe you’ve encountered a similar situation in your own life, or with a loved one. There’s always a slightly different version of the same thing.

A person takes their little God Box and fills it up with whatever suits them, inspires them, comforts or loves them.  Mix well and season to taste. Over time, they may dabble, or become connoisseurs of a kind of spiritualism, adding to or subtracting from the God Box according to their own improved recipe of personal relevancy.

Personally, I find it rather burdensome to never be able to trust the idea of a Transcendent God.  A god of my own choosing and making, who exists via my own invention, and is subject to the laws of addition and subtraction, is not really my idea of a god.  Frankly, I’ve got a pretty vivid imagination.  And I need a god that goes well beyond my own designs and story lines.

Still, I’ve met a few people who operate with a different ideology for God.  Their God is way, way up high, lofty and inaccessible to mere mortals. For them the goal of life is all about reaching for that high place — where God is — or for some attainment of a higher level of being. Therefore, if people just work hard enough at the recipe… they can attain “it” in this life.

To this way of thinking, God really does exist “up there”… like God sits in a box that’s too high up on a shelf.  So folks engage religious ladders to help ascend the height.  

Herein lies the dilemma for me: seekers must rely on the efficacy of their own human efforts to achieve this upward mobility. So they endeavor to search and reach up toward God or god or dog or whatever-you-define it/him/her/them to be.

The trajectory, you might say, is upwards toward something that will fulfill the desires of the heart. And formulas are all the same.  They are meant to take you higher.

Human persons hunger for a connection to something that is higher, and profound.

It is the quest for love and happiness and fulfillment, no more, no less.

Christianity, and the bedrock of Judaism that it sprang from, approaches fulfillment, and the meaning of life, with a completely different paradigm of divine origin: God comes is search of us. God, in can be said, reaches down to us first… in search of a relationship with us.

Using fancy words we call it Divine Revelation.  But in reality, it is the God of Heaven’s self-disclosure, God revealing Himself to us. 

This is the same God that covenanted Himself to Abraham, and even revealed his Name to Moses. Eventually, this same God, in the Person of Jesus Christ, took on flesh and dwelt among us, and became a man.

Yes, this is a God who seeks us.  This, you might say, is a downward trajectory… that of God descending, or rather, condescending to meet us ground level: face-to-face.

And it begs the question why? For the Christian, the answer is simple and sublime. 

The love of God for us compelled God to do the unthinkable… to come to earth, to enter into his creation in order to raise us, and it, up to him in an eternal embrace. 

The condescension of Jesus’ incarnation leads to our redemption. Jesus’ resurrection leads to our eventual union with God forever. Jesus, the visible presence of the invisible transcendent God, makes a way for mortals of body and soul to transcend this world through him, and with him, and in him.

This is God unleashed, out of the box our intellects and wishful thinking have placed him in, changing who and what we strive and reach toward.

God writes a script way beyond what we could ever ask for or imagine. It’s a story line I might recommend to my book-writing friend.


Pat Gohn is married to Bob and together they have raised three young adults. Pat holds a Masters degree in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University of Steubenville. She writes from her home in Massachusetts. Pat also hosts Among Women, a weekly podcast for Catholic women. Find the link at the bottom of Today's Catholic Woman homepage. Visit her website at http://www.patgohn.com. Pat can be reached at pat.gohn@comcast.net.
  • noelfitz

    A sound article. Thanks!