Who Is God For You?
The Blind Men and The Elephant
Perhaps you have heard the story of the blind men who encounter an elephant for the first time. Since the experience is new, each of them must equate this new discovery with something they have already experienced. Each of them shares with finality his conclusion. The one who takes hold of the trunk concludes it is a snake. Another wraps his arms around one of the elephant’s legs and announces it is a tree. The third blind man takes hold of the tail and concludes it is a rope. And the fourth blind man, pressing into the side of the elephant says that it is a wall.
Which of the four men is correct? Each in his blindness is describing the same thing: an elephant. Thus all are correct, but none completely so.
Our Own Experience
Each of us is not unlike the blind men in the story. John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God…” So, when we begin to become conscious of experiencing Him, we are like the blind men attempting to describe something new that we cannot really see. Like the blind men, we are left to connect the new experience with something we are already familiar with. When some men approach Jesus and want to know about him, he tells them to “Come and see.” (John 1:35) Each of us is created to experience God for our self. A life of faith cannot be constructed around the experiences of other people. Yet, when we do experience God in our life we must not conclude that our experience has to be normative for all others. While Jesus is the one who explains God to us, we are all left to have our own experience with Him. A much healthier approach is to conclude that, like the blind men and the elephant, my experience may be authentic and correct, but not wholly so. When I listen to and learn from other’s experiences, my understanding deepens and my faith grows. Ideally each of us is experiencing God for our self and we are connecting with others who are doing the same. The collective picture of our experiences with God is much more complete. This in no way means that God is malleable to our finite interpretations, it simply means our understanding is fine-tuned within a community of faith.