I walk down by the creek, searching for colorful stones. I like the smooth ones, the ones with interesting shapes, the ones that glisten underwater. I collect as many as I can hold in the palm of my hand and examine them, turning each of them this way and that. I used to take them all home (sometimes I still keep one or two), but I’ve found that most of them lose their magic when taken away from the clear creek water. The ripples and rapids do something to the colors and textures, and it doesn’t quite hold when you dry them off and put them on a shelf.
Like many, I first met God in a church. The God I met there was good and calm and tame, and I grew to love him. He was a God I could comprehend, a distinct Person with human form, who spoke in human words and comforted me in human ways. These were and often are necessary images of God.
But there’s more to the story, too.
As an adult, faith became more complex. Many of the beliefs that I used to grasp so tightly suddenly didn’t make sense anymore. When put to the test, they didn’t hold up. For a long time, I viewed God as a puzzle to be solved. I found myself searching for a new set of beliefs to hold on to. I was convinced that all the pieces were there; I just had to collect them all and assemble them together again.
I exhausted myself striving to figure out the one-and-done truth, as if I could ever hold it all in my mind. I had yet to realize that the beauty of faith is that we will never have it figured out. We will never be able to grasp all the answers.
The Spirit is too creative and too wild to be contained within our understanding.
These days, I hold things more loosely. I still collect and examine to learn as much as I can. I scoop up creek rocks and carry autumn leaves with me as I walk down the trail. I admire them and study them, but I don’t take them all home anymore. I’ve learned when to release them instead.
Instead of trying to carry God in my pocket, I keep my hands open and leave the Spirit wild. I leave room for wonder, for mystery, for getting it wrong and having more to discover as I go.
What if we emptied our pockets of the stones we’ve been collecting—the things we think we know—and put them back into their rightful place in the ecosystem?
What if we let them be a part of the whole, instead of obsessing over each individual piece?
What might we discover? What might we see more clearly?