Heaven Won’t Fit in Your Head
We can handle only momentary glances of truth into the preexistent Godhead. Awe is the aim, not divine understanding. “Such knowledge,” the creature confesses, “is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it” (Psalm 139:6).
I have long been a mental maniac. I ruminate over unanswerable questions, turning the concepts of God and the universe over in my head to examine them from different angles, seeking to find clarity, certainty, and even mastery of the “metanarrative.” As a young adult, by some mixture of my pride and the societal value placed on intellectual aptitude, I considered that hyperactive mental posture to be positive, if not godly.
Enter G.K. Chesterton. He met me a century after he wrote Orthodoxy with words that were conviction to a prideful soul and balm to a tired mind:
To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits. (8)
He confronted me with the stark reality that my mind cannot begin to hold the multidimensional mysteries of the universe. It cannot retain ages, nations, or species, much less shape them.
Magic in the Mystery
Chesterton opened a door that the almighty God walked through. His sarcastic diatribe against Job began to hit home: “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?” (Job 38:12–13). The questions are obviously rhetorical, but I hadn’t thoroughly considered how they applied to my arrogant, anxious thought life. Trying to figure out the world from a God’s-eye view was both sinful and maddening.
But my experience of God didn’t end in his mockery of me. I’m not sure that it even started there. He was simply asking me, with a knowing smile (in my mind’s eye), to breathe, to be a happy little creature in a vast world of his making. There was nowhere for me to run from his reality and no wand in my hand to change it as I saw fit.
Armed with my newfound smallness, creatureliness, and acknowledged mental ceiling, I began to wade into his infinite sea without trying to calm its waves. I began to embrace my place, owning my relative nothingness, and I watched the wide world, whether the things seen or the things unseen, become less wearisome and more wondrous. Mystery became magic where it had formerly been madness.