In his book Knowledge of the Holy, AW Tozer observes that even though our concept of God is fundamental to everything else about our spiritual life, it is difficult for anyone to know what he or she actually thinks about God:
“Compared with our actual thoughts about Him,” writes Tozer, “our creedal statements are of little consequence. Our real idea of God may lie buried under the rubbish of conventional religious notions and may require an intelligent and vigorous search before it is finally unearthed and exposed for what it is. Only after an ordeal of painful self-probing are we likely to discover what we actually believe about God.”
He’s right, of course. It’s easy enough to declare our belief in the traditional language about God and to imagine that those words – carefully crafted by our spiritual forebears – convey our own view of God. Our actual practice may be different, however, as other factors – our own family background or the influence of popular theology or the attitudes of people we admire – have actually formulated a kind of caricature, a distorted picture of God. And without knowing it, the God we actually think about is only the caricature, not the Holy One of Israel, Ruler of Heaven and Earth. This is no ruse. We are not being hypocritical, we are simply blind to our blind-spots.
Which makes me wonder if Tozer is being too optimistic. Knowing how easy it is for me to lie to myself and how difficult it is for me to detect my own blind-spots, could any amount of “intelligent and vigorous search” and “painful self-probing” be sufficient for me to uncover my own actual view of God? I’ve got my doubts. I’m not sure I am capable of detecting my blind-spots precisely because I am blind to them.
This is one of the reasons we need one another so much – to help us see things about ourselves that we are incapable of seeing – or unwilling to see. When we listen carefully to one another, when we examine the Scriptures together, when we hear one another pray, we can help one another uncover our heart attitudes about God. And about a whole host of other crucial matters: the authority of God’s Word, the sanctity of marriage, our identity in Christ, and so much more…
Discipleship has been called “a long obedience in the same direction,” but it is not a solo journey. We need one another as traveling companions, to encourage and support but also to probe and admonish.
Who are the one or two people you know well enough that they have your permission to listen carefully and ask you those probing, uncomfortable questions? Cherish that spiritual friendship. And invest in it. You and your friend need one another.
Pastor Paul Pyle