At best, we can barely draw correct inferences concerning things we find on earth. Only after much thought and work do we come to understand what is right in front of us. —Wisdom of Solomon 9:16 (CEB)
What must it have been like for God to wake up in a tiny, needy body? What must it have been like to surrender omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence to be defined and divided into just one thing? Just one thing with limitations, with vast spaces between, with no idea about the experience of the other?
It seems to me that there are obvious limitations to our perception, definition between each of us, and even more between us and the non-human beings. We have no way of knowing the experience of anyone else with any certainty. It’s hard enough to tell what’s going on with ourselves.
The few stories of Jesus that remain, portray his ability to bridge the spaces between himself and others. They show a person confidently reaching into and knowing the other. They show an awareness of more than what human senses can perceive. They show a man who is not a man. They show a man who is God.
And I’m not sure I buy it. Because that’s not what being incarnate is about. That’s no way for God to show any of us how to be here. No; if God were going to be a person, born of a woman, with skin and bones and blood and breath, I think God as Jesus would have to end up being more like us than not.
God in a Person Suit
Those who documented Jesus wouldn’t, couldn’t, let him be too human. They had to make Jesus something exalted, something divine. With miracles and magic and tales that underscored his difference from the rest of us. Jesus had to be God in a person suit.
It had to be this way. Otherwise, Jesus-the-concept would not have survived these last 2000 years. To write about memories and stories of a Jesus who was not-so-obviously-God would guarantee that those stories wouldn’t last long enough to be read by anyone today.
I believe in God Incarnate. I believe in Jesus, the One who was some kind of man, not the mythical figure of the same name.
I know it has served well at times, the fanciful Jesus created by persecuted followers, those hanging on to the hopeful stories that grew more interesting with each retelling. I also know how deadly it can be when you grasp onto a myth as if it were complete and real in exactly the way you think it to be.
But the bottom line is that I think Jesus is exactly what it looks like when a human being knows that God and flesh are not opposites. When the belief in God Incarnate is the rule, not the exception.
And this, my friends, is what ultimately makes the difference.
Not the miracles, not the walking on water, or all that “throw your nets over there” stuff, but the fundamental lessons of incarnation that are relevant in every time and in every society.
What value is there in a God-come-among-us if that God relies on difference and superiority; in other words, remains more God than human? How can we become better at being here if we believe the only example of that we have is a being fundamentally different than ourselves?
A God in a person suit can come to save us, to heal us, to rescue us, to do something to us. But a God in a person suit can’t come here to model incarnation, to show us, to parent us, to do something with us.
If we could allow Jesus to be like us–separate, cut off, often confused, tossed here and there by feelings emerging from deep inside, but still capable of living a life of compassionate action and fearless truth-telling–we might be able to connect to him more fully and embrace the kind of spiritual ethic he modeled. If we can make room enough, Jesus, through his life, which continues in his followers today, might show us how to do incarnation better.
Going the Next Step
Some of us have rejected the angry, vengeful God that required a blood sacrifice of His son. I know not all of you like it, or even think we should still be allowed to call ourselves Christian, but that’s what some of us have done. And in rejecting that particular conception of God, in proclaiming that kind of God to be a man-made creation, we have dared ask ourselves what kind of conception of God emerges; what comes next?
Some have pointed to an understanding of God that is only celestial inches from our previous conception. One that does not require the blood sacrifice, yet still exists somewhere else, as something we are not. One that does not differentiate Christians from Muslims from Jews from Goddess Womyn, yet still differentiates the sacred from the profane.
I suspect we are still blinded by dualism, that foundational but illusory paradigm. Here and there. Earthly and Heavenly. Me and you. Us and them. Human and God.
What if the new conception of God isn’t something that exists separate from us? What if the new conception isn’t even something that exists “in” and “through” us? Because those concepts “in” and “through” also imply something separate.
What if the God we are seeking, the one that emerges from the ashes of the angry, jealous God of rules and sacrifices . . . what if that God breaks the grip of dualism? What would happen if God was never “there,” but, instead, simply “was”?
What if Jesus wasn’t a blood sacrifice, and wasn’t God in a person suit, but was simply someone born to initiate awareness that we are all living incarnations of God? Not fully God, but nothing less.
What a responsibility that would imply.
So what is it like for God to wake up in a tiny, needy body? What is it like to surrender omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence to be defined and divided into just one thing? Just one thing with limitations, with vast spaces between, with no idea about the experience of the other?
Jesus knew. And, just perhaps, his work here was meant as an affirmation that we do, too.