The Pursuit of Understanding

Understanding God

What is God like? From the limits of my human understanding, it can be very easy to personify God by gender or adjectives of power and prestige. But, am I missing something hugely significant, by stuffing God in the confined box of my limited understanding?

Absolutely, but that is a place to start, a place to connect, a place to begin the path of journeying towards knowing God. We are formed by our surrounding influences and their definition/description of God and as we mature, we create our own definition/description.

Putting God in a Box

As for me, I began by assuming my maternal family’s understanding of God as Mighty and Powerful. I then integrated my own personalized understanding of God with my family’s teachings and God became a bit less formidable, and a bit more accessible and real.

Currently, at this point in my journey, God is who I have experienced Him to be in my life, but even more so, He is who I have yet to experience Him to be.

I find that the longer I live, the more God surprises me with new and differing ways to know Him, shattering each new box I use to try to conceptualize Him.

You would think, that at some point I would figure out that I should stop creating boxes altogether, but making boxes of meaning, or categorization of understanding is a natural human way of being. In fact, the more I learn about God and am surprised by the freshness of who She is, the more I learn about myself and about others. An understanding of God increases and provides more depth of the understanding of humanity.

Understanding Self and Others

When I consider how we limit our understanding of God within makeshift boxes, I find it to be true, that we also do the same with our understanding of ourselves and others. We often put ourselves in idealized boxes/versions of ourselves.

Putting Ourselves in a Box

Conflict often occurs when someone or something challenges the structural stability of the box we have created of how we see ourselves. Getting a dose of reality, constructive criticism, or truth in love, helps us to truly see ourselves. It also freely gives us permission to be surprised as we discover the depths of who we are. Getting to know ourselves is a lifelong process. The intrapersonal work of facing and understanding ourselves often calls the spiritually minded to ask for help and direction from God in the process of truly seeing and accepting ourselves.

Putting Others in a Box

It is so easy to put someone else in a box… to see them, judge them, and create a box of who they are based on our limited knowledge of them. At times, we do not know what to do when someone surprises us and forces us to shift our understanding of them. We’ll often ask… Who are you? Well, they are in the process of discovering that answer, just as we are. The interpersonal work of seeing others for who they authentically are and not who we may want them to be or the attributes that we have projected onto them also invites the Holy to give us divine eyes (or divine lenses) to see and love one another. This is the blessed gift of spiritually integrated counseling. We are trained to invite the God of our limited understanding to help us walk with others on their journey of formation of identity and are gifted to co-experience someone seeing themselves and God in a new way on this journey.

Breaking Boxes: Integrating the Understanding of Humanity and God

Utilizing an understanding of human behavior, of ourselves and others (psychology), and an understanding of God (theology) calls us to accept the fluidity of that understanding. Integrating these understandings can be quite natural when we acknowledge that we may never fully know all of God, of others, or of ourselves. Instead, we can adopt an adventurous mindset of anticipation in the new and life-giving ways in which our understanding deepens.

As counselors integrating spirituality and counseling, we have the honor of witnessing portions of clients’ experience of deepened understanding. We get to help ourselves and others see the boxes that have been created, and get to stand in wonder when that box is broken, rebuilt, expanded, or put away. We are all in the process of being; being with ourselves, with others, with God, and with the changes that shift and impact our understanding of being. Indeed, what an honor to be a box breaker and to be a box rebuilder.

What boxes of understanding need to be broken or rebuilt in your relationship with God, yourself, or others?

How might having a mindset of wonder impact and change the way you respond to a shift in understanding about yourself or someone else?

How do you see the integration of the understanding of God and of humanity?

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