How Explaining Science to My Son Helped Me Understand My Relationship With God
The Language of Heaven: Part II
One night I was driving home with my son in the back seat. He was three years old and getting very adept at using his newfound skill of speaking to ask questions about absolutely everything. It was nearly dark and it just so happened that, when we pulled into our driveway, the trees in our front yard almost perfectly framed the light of the full moon. I watched my son in the rearview mirror as he looked up and noticed this, his little nose twitched as the formed question in his growing mind.
"How does the moon work?"
When my son asks me an open question about the moon, a filing cabinet in my brain shoots open and everything from my 3rd grade trifold presentation on the moon to a PowerPoint presentation I did in high school comes flying out.
I thought about telling him how the moon affects the tides as well as the Earth's orbit around the sun. I thought about telling him about the moon's synchronous rotation with the Earth, and how it caused the same side of the moon to always be facing the Earth's surface. I thought about telling him how earthquakes on the moon are called moonquakes, how perilous the first moon landing was, how much lighter he would be on the moon.
As I lined up all the sweet moon facts I was about to drop in my son's lap, I looked back at his adorably eager face and realized something. If I threw all my knowledge about the moon at him, he would probably be overwhelmed. He did not have the secondary knowledge and context needed to understand most of what I had to say. In fact, if I just dumped it all on him. he may not ask again next time.
I waited for a moment and considered how to tell him as much information about how the moon works as was possible, base on where he was at, what he could handle. As I went through this brief mental exercise, I had a sudden realization: "This is what God does with us, constantly."
The gap between my knowledge and my son's was nothing compared to the gap between my knowledge and God's. God has an understanding and context that is infinitely larger than mine. Maybe some of the questions I ask Him, the mysteried I am baffled by, the things I perceive as inconsistencies, maybe those are just like my son asking me how the moon works.
Maybe the place where the Bible uses metaphor are the places where the limits in human capacity to understand would prevent us from being able to even begin to conceptualize the true answer. Maybe the Kingdom of Heaven is so vast, beautiful, and complex that Jesus was only able to tell us in parables what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.
Being comfortable with mystery and willing to pursue understanding through the limits of metaphor is essential to learning the language of Heaven. We are dealing with a being who is beyond the scope of our human experience but, thankfully, one who has invited us to know Him. Just like the oversimplified answer I ended up giving to my son when he asked how the moon works, God is not being aloof or vague out of malice or a lack of care. I believe that He desires for us to know as much of who He is as possible.
I think that metaphor and mystery are key parts of the language of heaven because learning He is unknowable is part of learning to know him. It is a strange dichotomy, but one we must learn to engage if we want to know God more.
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