I used to be a very black and white person. Everything was either right or wrong. People were either hot or cold. Decisions were either smart or stupid. The idea of both/and didn’t occur to me; it was always either/or.
You can imagine the difficulty that created for me—and for the people in my life. What you might not imagine is the difficulty it created for me and my relationship with God.
It was easy for me to see God as truth. I had no difficulty acknowledging His justice, righteousness, power, and judgment. But His gentler traits—mercy, love, kindness, patience—were harder for me to accept. Sure, I recognized those qualities as theological truths—but I had a hard time with the idea that He would actually relate to me in those ways. So I usually tried to stay below the radar: I would follow His commands as much as I could and hope He didn’t notice when I messed up.
Needless to say, that approach didn’t do much for my relationship with Him, and it did not do much for my prayer life either.
God didn’t change me overnight—He rarely does that. But there were a series of things He did to help me see Him more accurately, more wholly. One was a eureka moment He gave me when I was reading Romans 11 one day: “Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness” (verse 22). I was both puzzled and a little taken aback: How could God be both kind and severe? For me, they seemed like opposites. How could they possibly go together?
God wanted me to see that the paradoxes that were so uncomfortable for me are completely necessary in order for Him to be the incredible, loving, good, powerful, righteous and holy God He is. In order to be God, He has to be both just and merciful, He has to be both powerful and gentle, He has to be both grace and truth. It can be no other way.
When I saw Him from just one extreme, one end of the spectrum, I was seeing Him in only one-dimension. And that is why so many people—myself included—tend to have distorted views of God. We see God as either a giant teddy bear or a punitive judge. We view Him as either indulging our every desire or as a cosmic kill joy. It’s too easy for our perceptions of God to be skewed to one dangerous extreme or the other.
As God has patiently worked with me to see Him more accurately, I have learned to delight in the “opposites” that make up His character. A few weeks ago He invited me to worship Him by reflecting on some of these. It’s been fun to ponder Him in these ways. Here are some of the ways I’ve enjoyed Him recently:
- You are bigger than the galaxies, God, but You live inside my heart!
- You cause nations to rise and fall, but You keep track of the hairs on my head!
- You are King of kings and Lord of lords, but You also came as the Servant of all.
- You are my Judge, but You are my Advocate.
- You give me abundant life, but You call me to follow You in death.
- You are always faithful but never predictable.
- You are my Protector and Refuge, but You send me into the battle.
- You challenge and stretch me but never give me more than I can bear up under.
- You are Prince of peace but Your Word is a sword.
- You are exalted, but You look kindly on the lowly.
- You are my Savior who died on a cross.
- Your voice thunders above the mighty waters, yet speaks to my heart in a gentle whisper.
- You are a Lion and You are a Lamb.
- I owe You everything, but You give me everything!
Do you ever worship God this “both/and” way? What are some examples of how You enjoy His wonderful “opposites”? How has seeing Him more completely helped you in your relationship with Him or your prayer life?