“People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.” —Harper Lee
It’s a quote from To Kill a Mockingbird. Yet when I read the quote today, I realized it could mean an awfully lot. We want things to happen a certain way. We have an ideal, whether it’s positive or motivated by negativity, as in expecting the worst of someone.
I think it’s true of spiritual matters. Again, we have an ideal, what we conceptualize. Do you know people who talk about “hearing God’s voice”? How often does God tell them something horrible? Or even something good, yet hard, like “sell all your stuff and move to Alaska and seek me while living in the wilderness”? No, most of us would much rather hear, “I will increase your ______.”
I think we see the God we’re looking for. Some people feel most at ease with a mean, law invoking God. They think about hell and it seems to make them comfortable to consider if people don’t do certain things, they’re doomed. Others prefer a wishy washy God who is only about love and forgiveness. We categorize God like we do people, don’t we? And some of us love policemen. Those who do, think of them as respectable, as law enforcers. Others, especially those who live in neighborhoods like mine, don’t tend to see law enforcement the same way. Some of us love the all accepting, hippie type folks who tend not to judge others.
I think we try to make God into an improved version of us. Someone smarter, bigger, stronger, wiser, richer. Someone who looks like us and feels and acts like us, but is perfect in the human sense of perfect. Therefore if he played football, he’d always win the game. If he was a musician, he’d never play a wrong note. If he was a baker, his bread would always rise perfectly. A superhero of sorts. That seems to be what we’re looking for. Superman who is always ready to step in and lend a hand. An all powerful character who is eternally on our side.
Sometimes I’m curious as to whether we have a clue. What is God really? Who is he? Most likely, in my opinion, someone much, much more difficult to imagine than we as humans will ever comprehend. Sure, I know…… why not just go by what the bible says he is? I am not against that, by any means. But remember, back to the quote above, people see what they look for….. hear what they listen for….. How do we know what we read isn’t someone’s version of their perfect personification on paper? Why is Mark Driscoll’s God different from those who support the ordination of female Episcopal priests? Is he a different God depending on one’s perception? Or do we just see what we’re looking for/hear what we’re listening for? Is it normal that two children, raised by the same parent, would see their parent in a radically different manner? There is such a vast, wide, mammoth gap between what some see and hear and what others perceive. I’m supposing it’s because we see what we’re looking for. We’re hearing what we’re listening for.