We are extremely formulaic people. I don’t think we can really help it though. From the start we are kind of wired that way. As a baby, if we cry we get food. As a toddler, sometimes if we pitch a fit we get our way. If we get the right answer in school, then we get good marks. It even leaks it’s way into adulthood. If we do a good job at work, then we get paid and maybe even a raise. But sometimes it is quizzical to me how we apply these same standards to God and his workings with humanity. We apply our formulas to Him and expect Him to work by our standards when clearly He is not a man. I once heard a quote that unfortunately kind of rings true in the church, ‘God made man in His image, and man returned the favor.’ Now often this quote is used in an attempt to damage the theology of the church, but I rather think it can be used for healthy criticism.
We will never fully understand God. His very giving of His name hinted at that, “I will be what I will be.” – Exodus 3:14. And so I think we should be careful of breaking everything with God down to a formula and simply trust in his goodness. That is not always easy. What if I pray and it doesn’t get answered? What if I am faithful, but I am never blessed? I always loved C.S. Lewis take on this in reference to Aslan (the God-figure in his Chronicles of Narnia), ” ‘Then he isn’t safe?’ asked Lucy. ‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver. ‘Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you’.” You see, this faith journey isn’t safe and there are never any guarantees. I always tell my students that when we get there, I even think that heaven will be a lot easier…or a lot more difficult to get into than we thought. See Matthew 25: 31-46 for that deduction. And the hard part is that it isn’t a formula. But that’s the scandal of grace, and the not-so-safe adventure of following a God who is not like a man.