On Sunday Dallas began his sermon by inviting us to think about the nature of God. He began by telling us about three words that are often used to describe what God is like. They all start with Omni (which means “All”).
Omnipresent – All present, ie. God is everywhere
Omniscient – All knowing, ie. God knows everything
Omnipotent – All powerful, ie. God can do anything
I have a very distinct memory of first learning about “the omnis.” I was a teenager in a class for young people that met weekly to learn about our church tradition, theology and the Bible. When we got to talking about the Omnis, we totally cracked ourselves up. It went something like this:
Super Hilarious Teenager Number One: Which Omni is the one where God knows everything?
Super Hilarious Teenager Number Two: Ummmmmmmmm…..niscient!
Super Hilarious Teenager Number Three: Which Omni says God can do anything again?
Super Hilarious Teenager Number Four: Ommmmmm (trance like)….nipotent
We were super duper hysterical, I assure you. And our teacher TOTALLY thought we were funny, too. Her sighs were probably just because she was tired.
Of course, we were not as reverent or appropriate as we should have been. The truth was none of us really knew how to talk about God. How could we? We spent most of our time wanting to ask the real questions, the ones that were digging at us deep down, the ones that we thought we maybe weren’t supposed to ask. We wanted to debate why people were suffering and why God would let someone get Lou Gehrig’s disease. We wanted to ask how we were really supposed to live the way the church was telling us to live when it was just so hard. Did the adults really have any idea what it was like for us? We wanted to know if our teacher really really believed what she was teaching us, and, if she did, how could she be sure? And was it bad if sometimes we weren’t so sure?… The truth was we had a lots of Ums, a lot of questions, a lot of uncertainties.
“God is everywhere.”
Ummmmmm…..then why can’t I feel Him sometimes?
“God knows everything.”
Ummmmmm….if He knows everything, that kind of scares me. Because there’s stuff about me I don’t want anyone to know.
God can do anything.
Ummmmmm….then why doesn’t He? Why doesn’t He stop hunger and war and sickness and suffering and GIVE ME A BOYFRIEND????
The Omnis are actually a pretty big deal, but they can still be hard to understand. And a lot of us still have the Ums. Who among us hasn’t wondered why we can’t feel God when we long to feel Him most? Who hasn’t questioned how the idea of God giving free will and still knowing everything can co-exist? And I think as we get older we only see even more times when we wonder why God didn’t show His power – why it seems He didn’t heal, or didn’t intervene, or didn’t heal the relationship, or didn’t stop the tragedy.
I think this is where I’m supposed to have a really good answer to all those questions. But, the truth is, I still have a lot of Ums. The truth is there are times I would still love to sit in that little room in my old church and harass my teacher with all my rage and questions and frustrations and listen to her calmly assure me that even when we don’t understand, that God does. And feel again that faith that she had seep into me. The truth is there is much that I still don’t know how to talk about God, even with a seminary degree giving me all the right words now to do so.
But here is what I love. Saint Augustine said this: “If you comprehend it, it’s not God.”
And He is onto something.
I’m not really interested in a God that I can totally figure out. What kind of God would that be? As incomprehensible as it is, I do believe that God is all the Omnis. I take comfort that God knows what I do not. I take comfort that He, alone, has power that I do not. I take comfort in knowing that He is always with me, even when I don’t feel it or I am not sure or I don’t have the still calm voice of that teacher reminding me it is so.
Do I understand it all? Ummmm….no.
Is that okay? Ummm….yeah.
Because there is a God who is bigger. A God who is powerful. A God who knows what I don’t.