Beyond Definition

picture of Rabbi

“God is beyond our capacity to define because to define is to limit. God cannot be controlled, and therefore God cannot be defined…” – Rabbi Samuel Karff

As one who feels compelled to think things through, this presents a quandary. I want to understand, to grasp in my mind, to anchor my thoughts with carefully chosen words. Yet those very words which are the tools for understanding betray my intent because they are chosen – carefully – to mean a certain thing. They are always too small.

On my good days, I my wanting to ‘know’ holds a bit of the biblical meaning. To know and to be known is the consumption of an intimate relationship – one that affirms each partner in their deepest self. After all, the more you love someone, the more you want to know them – the more every little detail – even the annoying ones – can become precious. (There have been times, particularly after significant illness, when my husband’s snoring was a welcome sign that he was still breathing, as he slept beside me.) Annoying grace.

Of course, I won’t admit to finding God annoying. Surely not.

Perhaps there is a difference – lets see if I can define it – between wanting to know God and wanting to define God.  If I really want to know God as God is, I am required to open myself to surprises as well as confirmations. That is very different from the desire to hold things still, in an unchangeable definition. Its a delicate tightrope to walk sometimes. I do want God to fit my expectations – those confirmations shape my soul. Perhaps the surprises can stretch it, where it has grown too tight.

In the end, of course, I must let God be God.  I must hold my faith in an open hand.

[Quotation, modified photo from The Amazing Faith of Texas, by Roy M. Spence, p. 53]

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