I have made a humbling discovery in weeks past. My hamster is smarter than I am! It’s true! Not once, but twice Buechner (my Chinese dwarf hamster) has escaped the confines of his cage. The first time it happened was on a night that I had slept on the couch. No, I did nothing wrong and I wasn’t in the doghouse, I was just having trouble sleeping and went to the couch so that I wouldn’t keep my wife awake. In doing so, I moved Buechner's cage to the floor of the office so that, per chance I ever got to sleep, his wheel wouldn’t keep me up.
Well, needless to say, I woke up about 5am and didn’t know why; I had just gotten to sleep. I could have sworn that some noise had awoken me from my slumber. Well, nevertheless, nature was calling anyway, so I got up and went to the bathroom. On my way back to the couch, I heard the noise again. It was coming from the office, and immediately I placed it…it was the sound of Buechner’s metal grate banging against the lid. It had not been latched, and he had found his way up there and squeezed through. By the time I got into the office, he was gone, lost never to be heard from again. Until that night, I never realized how big the room was, or how many rodent-hiding places there were. What do I do? I lost my favorite hamster.
Well, actually not all was lost. You already know that I got him back so he could escape a second time (which we retrieved him then too). I had a trusty little book with all kinds of ways listed in one chapter about capturing an escaped hamster. None of them worked! Then I had this idea. What if I put his cage back on the floor in the office, with the holes on each end opened? That way, at least he could get food and water, and maybe I would get lucky enough to catch him in there.
Not an hour passed when (again on my way to the bathroom) I heard the familiar sound of his squeaky wheel. I opened the door to the office, and he stops running on his wheel and looks up at me. His expression was like, “what? Where did you expect me to be? I mean, why wouldn’t I return to my home…it is all I have ever known.”
Here my imprisoned rodent had found the freedom of the open room that he had so long strived to find, and in the end, he decided he was too scared to stay in that vast uncertain world, so he returned to his small cage and his trusty exercise wheel. He was overwhelmed by the infinite, and returned to the contentment of running on a shallow wheel that never gets anywhere.
I have been thinking a lot lately about how possible it is to change the minds of Christians. I mean that is what I will spend my life doing in the ministry is it not? I would be trying to get people to let go of their version of God in order to embrace an improved version of God. It is not MY version of God, but the version of God that a new perspective can bring. I am talking about seeing God as he is, and as he wants to show us, not the image of God that we have painted to look like…well more like us and less like God. If I were to spend my life in the Ministry, it would be trying to get people to experience for themselves a bigger God than any of us could imagine.
Unfortunately though, just like my hamster who has a pea-sized brain… most people are afraid of the infinite God that we might just see, if we leave our small cage of dogma that we cling to. Why are we scared? Maybe we are scared that if we seek God that we might find him. Maybe we are scared that seeing more of God will leave us with a life full of unanswerable questions. Maybe we are fearful that seeing the perfection of God will leave us even more ashamed of our sinful state. On the other hand, maybe we are just scared that if we truly see the Glory of God, that we would be so overwhelmed, and so in awe, that we might just wet ourselves.
Isaiah saw God. The encounter left him a little sensitive to bright lights, and his burnt lips would never be able to handle spicy food again. However, it also left him with the world, and somehow, after seeing God, the world just wasn’t as beautiful. For the rest of his days he was haunted by that vision, and all he could think about was that if the people that he was prophesying to had seen what he had seen, then they might just take a different tone, and stop to listen to what God was trying to tell them. So, in the end, Isaiah lived for the end. I imagine that his days were spent longing for the day that he would be able to see God again in all of his Glory.
Maybe that is why we are so afraid. Maybe we are afraid that if we let go and try to see an infinite and true God (not our pale image of him), then the world and all that we love in it just won’t be as wonderful as we thought it was. Then, after experiencing that, there is really nothing left on this world to live for. Indeed, we would have to find something else to live for. I think Jesus would call this living for the Kingdom of God.