On most postcards of Seattle you’ll see the Space Needle, built for the 1962 World’s Fair. I’ve been up high in the Space Needle several times, and people on the ground below look quite small and far away! On days when the fog and mist are dense around the observation deck, you can feel like you’re in the clouds — far, far above life below.
Whether we’re high up in the Space Needle or flying through clouds in a plane, are we closer to God? Isn’t God “way up there?” According to A.W. Tozer, God is transcendent, which means “to rise above.” And it is a challenge for us to understand how God can be here with us, in us, pervading all things, but at the same time he can be “above” all things. Tozer writes,
“God is always nearer than you may imagine Him to be. God is so near that your thoughts are not as near as God; your breath is not as near as God; your very soul is not as near to you as God is. And yet because He is God, His uncreated Being is so far above us that no thought can conceive it nor words express it” (p. 34).
When we describe God’s transcendence as “farness above,” we are not thinking about astronomical distance; rather, we are using words we understand to help us think about something beyond our comprehension, something irrational.
As nurses, we need to have a basic understanding of transcendence because people have a spiritual need to believe in something transcendent — a being, a force, or something that helps them understand who they are and the world they live in. As Christian nurses, we need to be able to respond to people’s questions when they seek our help to understand this spiritual need. But what do we say?
The truth is that God is far above what is rational as He is above the physical. Tozer writes,
“God is of an essence and substance the like of which nothing else exists in the universe. He is above it all — and yet we can know a little portion of God’s ways” (p. 40).
Tozer suggests that we should respond to God’s transcendence with a sense of “creature consciousness” that includes realizing our ignorance of him, our human weaknesses, our sin, and our great need for him to save us and bring us in relationship with him.
Thankfully, when we understand that God has come in the person of Jesus to pay our sin debt through his death and physical resurrection, God in all his glory and greatness comes personally close to us. As Tozer describes,
“. . . He is far away, in one sense, but in another He is as near as your heartbeat, for the cross has bridged the gulf. Let the blood of Jesus cleanse us from all sin. He who is God the Transcendent One says, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls’ (Matthew 11:28-29).”
Come, Lord Jesus, come.
–by Jane Hall, NCF National Director
All quotes from: A.W. Tozer, The Attributes of God, Volume 2
This is the twelth post in a series by NCF Director Jane Hall on God’s attributes. She is inspired by the writings of A.W. Tozer in The Attributes of God, Volume 2