Chasing Tortoises

Rabbi Daniel Polish once said, “I do not believe in a God whose will or motives are crystal clear to me.  And as a person of faith, I find myself deeply suspicious of those who claim such insight.”  One of the things that often frustrates us to no end is the fact that we cannot know everything there is to know about God.  God, being God, exists and operates at a level above our ability to understand.  This is why our relationship with God is such a big deal.  It is God, Who is normally completely beyond our understanding, revealing Himself to us.  To claim complete knowledge of God is to attempt to make Him less God by trying to squeeze Him into a box that we have thought up.

In many ways, our getting to know God is like the philosopher Zeno’s story about Achilles and the tortoise.  Zeno asks us to imagine the warrior Achilles chasing a tortoise.

Original Kuroboushi chibi by Fiona the Awesome

Original Kuroboushi chibi by Fiona the Awesome

He then points out that in order to catch the tortoise Achilles must first reach the halfway point between himself and the tortoise.

Original Kuroboushi chibi by Fiona the Awesome

Original Kuroboushi chibi by Fiona the Awesome

However, in order to reach that halfway point, Achilles must reach the halfway point between himself and the first halfway point.

Original Kuroboushi chibi by Fiona the Awesome

Original Kuroboushi chibi by Fiona the Awesome

This process of reaching halfway points is carried on forever, leaving Achilles chasing an infinite number of points.

Original Kuroboushi chibi by Fiona the Awesome

Original Kuroboushi chibi by Fiona the Awesome

Thus, Zeno concludes, Achilles will never catch the tortoise.

Original Kuroboushi chibi by Fiona the Awesome

Original Kuroboushi chibi by Fiona the Awesome

As we grow in our relationship with God and get to know Him better, we begin to notice more and more halfway points that we must reach in order to come to complete knowledge of God.  These points may be things like seeing the beauty and ingenuity in creation or the way that He answers our prayers with the exact thing we need.  These points leave us in awe of God’s great power, wisdom, love, etc.

The ever-expanding horizon of God is not just some trick to tease us.  Instead, it is very simply the outcome of coming to know God.  To know God better is not only to know more about Him, but also to know how much more we don’t know about Him.  However, as we continue to seek and follow God, we find ourselves enveloped by Him just as Achilles was enveloped by halfway points.  The Christian faith is not a check list to be marked off item by item.  Instead, it is a personal relationship with God that is initiated by God.  We do not progress in this relationship by going farther.  Instead, we progress by going deeper; deeper into God and being shaped by Him. Knowing God does not consist in catching the elusive tortoise of divine knowledge as much as in allowing ourselves to be immersed in God.

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