God, Rid Me of God
“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, who is, and who was, and who is to come.” – Revelation 1:8
Every so often someone will confide this to me: “I’m not sure I believe in God anymore…” It’s a refreshing confession compared to flashing one’s piety around the minister. Taking cues from William Sloane Coffin, I inquire: “Tell me about the God you don’t believe in.”
They might describe an image of God they rightly outgrew decades ago: an old man in the sky doling out rewards and punishments while, paradoxically, not doing enough to stop evil. I can honestly respond: “I don’t believe in that God either. Tell me about the God you would embrace.”
Often they say something like: “I’d embrace a God big enough to hold all reality yet close and personal enough to care about me.” To this I respond: “That’s the God I know and experience in Christ.”
If we ever think we have outgrown God, we are mistaken. What we have outgrown is not God. What we have outgrown is an image, concept or idea about God. The goal is not to replace one concept for another but to go beyond all concepts.
The 13th century theologian, Meister Eckhart, prayed, “God, rid me of God,” which sounds absurd. Eckhart’s aim, I believe, was to get free of ideas, even good and holy ones, which would inevitably limit direct experience of divine reality. Words matter, images help, concepts point us in the right direction, and they are a poor substitute for the One who is the beginning and the end.
Alpha and Omega, I rejoice that I am always at the beginning, and will never outgrow you.
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first book, The Spinner Prince available now.