Deep Deep Down
God has revealed these things to us through the Spirit. The Spirit searches everything, including the depths of God. – 1 Corinthians 2:10
At some point in my college experience, I encountered the thought of a man named Paul Tillich. Tillich changed a lot about the way I think about and recognize God in my life; or rather I shouldn’t say “changed” so much as “took the words right out of my mouth” or “finally put words to the way I felt”. One of the biggest things Tillich did was to say that it was alright to stop thinking about God as “up there” somewhere. God isn’t up beyond the clouds, hanging out in outer space somewhere. That old way of looking at creation as a three-part universe with Earth in the middle, Hell underneath, and Heaven above is dead. But if God isn’t “up there” somewhere, then is there a God at all? “OF COURSE THERE IS!” Tillich says.
God is depth. God isn’t up. God is deep. God resides in the deep places of life and human experience, where words lose their ability to describe a reality too big for them. We all have experiences of this. We all know the tragedy of being “shallow” or “superficial”. I think it’s safe to say we all share a desire for and respect for integrity and depth. God is this depth, this quality, this truth of life. Jesus shows us the depths of God when he takes to that cross for us, when he enters into the depths of human sorrow and tragedy. Jesus does this to show us that it is in these depths when we are closest to God, because God loves us and cares for us deeply.
“So what, Pastor? So you’ve replaced the word “up” with “deep”, what’s the big deal?” It’s a huge deal, dear people. This somewhat simple change of language can transform how you think about and experience God in your own life. Suddenly, God is not some distant super-being, but the delicious mystery at the center of our very lives.
God is deep. And when we know the truth of God as something “deep” and not something “up” then we also can stop measuring the success of our lives on numbers that go “up” and start measuring success on qualities that go “deep”. Here’s one example: we all know that tired but true phrase “Money can’t buy happiness.” There is truth in that happiness is not based on the height of your wealth but the depth of your relationships with other people and with the world around you.
And what of the success of the Church or of our congregations? Again, when we train our eyes for depth we see that true success in a congregation is not measured by the height of your worship attendance numbers but rather on the depth of the faith of the people who are there. You could fill a sanctuary with people a mile long, but what good is it if you would walk across the whole of their faith and not even get your ankles wet? Depth is what’s important.
This past month we’ve been aimed at going deep, every Tuesday night. We who have gathered for The Summer Seven have been retraining our eyes to see God in our world in the deep places of life. There are four more nights we will meet this July. It has been a wonderful opportunity to take faith to a deeper place than we normally go.
God isn’t “up, up, away.” God is “deep, deep, down.” Let’s grow deeper in our faith together.
Pastor Rory Philstrom