Life is not black and white. I've known about this for quite some time now, but every now and again God inspires me with another example.
Walking around my work campus today, I was reminded of several instances where things are not as clear cut as we sometimes think they are. There isn't a definitive line between where our lake ends and dry land begins. There isn't a certain depth of water up until a certain point, and then suddenly a tall wall of ground under the water and a plot of dry land starting right next to the water's edge. Instead, as the water approaches the dry land, it gets more and more shallow, eventually looking like a mere puddle of rain water on otherwise dry land. Where does the lake end and the dry land begin?
I looked up at the clouds in the sky, and remembering how fascinated I always am with how easily we go right through them when in an airplane, I was reminded of how they're nothing less than gaseous H2O. Then I looked out into the lake at the ripples and the fountain, and thought of how those very same molecules look completely different when in liquid form. Walking through the fallen leaves, I thought of the approaching winter, which to me always brings to mind snow, and yet again I was presented with a third way that H2O can be manifest. It seems that the divide between what is water and what is not water is not that obvious, as it can take the form of a liquid, solid, or gas.
Then I thought of the mystery of God. I suppose it's in our human nature to want to try to figure out who God is, but at the same time, I think it's impossible to put whatever we come up with into words. I think God doesn't want to be described to His children. He wants each of us to experience Him for themselves. That's why I think every religion's attempt at explaining and defining God inevitably falls short. Whether we go the personal route (God the Father) or the abstract route (God as Universal Source), neither really means anything to someone who doesn't have a personal experience of God's presence in their lives.
Within Christianity, there is this attempt at showing how the world is not black and white by the mystery of the Trinity. The Trinity attempts to show us that the world is not divided neatly into "God" and "not God" (ie. Creator and creation). Rather, Jesus serves as a link between the Divine and humanity. God the Father can be said to stand for the source of all creation, universal intelligence and beauty. Jesus the Son, the incarnation of God, serves to raise up our human dignity to the level of the divine. He took on our flesh, and by so doing, eliminated any temptation to prefer the spiritual over the physical, and instead embrace both aspects of our being. The Holy Spirit is that aspect of God that we experience when we sense God's presence. That's what I think.
Addressing the Father in the Lord's prayer and speaking of Christ as dwelling within us has always confused me, as it sounded as though they were different gods, and I am very definitively monotheistic. But separating each person of the Trinity into a different realm of responsibility, if you will, is helping me to accept the teaching of the Trinity without compromising my belief in a single God.
I've struggled with various aspects of my faith primarily because I've taken for granted that when it comes to religious beliefs, things are indeed black and white. But how could God's world lie? Everywhere I turn, nature, history, even the diversity of human beings, all point to a spectrum, a continuum, and not a two-toned division of all things. If God's world reflects God, and it isn't black and white, then God cannot be as clearly defined and separated from us either.
What remains is the necessity to accept and embrace the feeling of uncertainty, of ultimately not knowing, yet trusting that what is most important need not be defined or labeled. Ignatian spirituality offers a lovely prayer that really resonated with me on one of the retreats I went on, where I received a book of Ignatian prayers. One prayer in particular stands out for me. (But I'll have to go home and look it up. Apparently, there are limits to what you can find on the internet after all!)