Growing up Catholic, I had a view of God that could be characterized by the passage of Isaiah 6:1-5, "In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. And one called to another and said: 'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!' And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips…’"
There was an overwhelming sense of the bigness of God, the smallness of me, and the depth of my sin. God was magnificent. He was magnificent in power, strength, holiness, character, physical size, in every way. Nahum 1:3 describes it this way, “His way is in the whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” To this day, I often find myself looking up at the puffy clouds on a sunny day and finding great comfort in knowing that my big God is walking around, overseeing his creation and tending to his work.
Admittedly, it was this very bigness of God, though, that made it impossible for me to draw near to him — I simply could not relate to him and could not feel as though I was worthy of drawing near enough to get to know him. It was a ridiculous idea really — trying to have a personal relationship with a God who was unfathomably large!
Indeed, when I accepted Christ as my personal Savior ten years ago, I discovered that it in fact was not a ridiculous idea, but the most brilliantly thought-out one I had ever heard. So I found myself on a journey to reconcile this large and magnificent God with one I was finding to be kind and gentle, full of compassion and goodness. I had fallen in love with a personal version of God — the “Jesus part” of the Trinity, who “when [he] knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (John 13:1)
Somewhere along the way I did realize that the two — big and magnificent and personal and loving — aren’t distinct, but are in fact two very wonderful images of the same God who is manifested in too many ways to count. There is no more perfect time of year to reflect on this than during the Resurrection season. The same God, whose holy wrath could only be quenched by placing his anger for sin on something, chose Someone to place it on: Himself. The same God whose love for the world brought him to humble himself for a people who hadn’t even asked was also the One whose eyes were too holy to even look upon sin.
To the human mind, this intersection of two seemingly opposite ideas — a big, holy, mighty God and a personal, loving, gentle God — is simply incongruous. But it works. And it is an essential component of the Christian faith, which if realized by each of us, could alter the very way we live our lives and interact with others. A.W. Tozer says it this way, “The whole outlook of mankind might be changed if we could all believe that we dwell under a friendly sky and that the God of heaven, though exalted in power and majesty, is eager to be friends with us.”
Isaiah phrases it slightly differently, “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is holy. ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit.’” (Isaiah 57:15)
Our awesome and mighty God is also our friend. Our big and mighty God demands our worship and adoration, but he is also our greatest empathizer and our best shoulder to cry on. He holds the universe in the palm of his hand, but he also catches our tears in a bottle. He has complete sovereignty over life and death, but he also lovingly writes our names in his book of life. That is a paradox worth living and dying for.
Today, when I look up at the sky and see the dust of my big God’s feet, I also see the leaves on his trees, waving at me to and fro, to and fro. Saying hello. Reminding me that he is magnificent, but that he also, “having loved [me]… love[s] [me] to the very end.” And that’s true for you as well.