whole: day 23

Of all that God has shown me

I can speak just the smallest word,

Not more than a honey bee

Takes on his foot

From an overspilling jar.

Mechtild of Magdeburg

I wonder if I have to be dead before I can see the whole of God?  It isn’t unusual to hear people say of their dead loved ones ‘at least they’re with God now’ – but what do I think we really mean by that?

The JudaeoChristian tradition has taught that it is impossible to look God in the face – to see the whole of God – without being consumed in the process.  This is why no one still living can say what the whole of God looks like.  This is why some traditions teach that any visual attempt at representing the Divine Whole is blasphemous.  

Yet the writer of the letter to the Corinthians states that although seeingdarkly may be our way of perceiving the Divine at work in our here and now, there will be a time ‘when the complete comes’, (1 Corinthians 13.10).  In other words, traditional Bible teaching has always taught that when Jesus comes again to establish a new kingdom of heaven on earth, then is when we shall be able to come ‘face to face’ with the Whole of who God is.

I’m not at all sure I understand (or agree with!) this binary of now/then, but what I do know is that when I was growing up, rather than encouraging me to keep seeking me to see and know who God is (even if it is only partially or darkly), in the end these Bible verses gave me permission to not bother looking very hard for the presence of God.  They could be seen as a passport for spiritual laziness, and sloppy theology.


I now believe these verses are saying the opposite: God is present in my here and my now.  The Whole is available to be known, not by my striving or insight, but because God is.  The isness of God is within me and within every living thing.  The isness of God, found in the totalising reality of the Cosmic Christ, who we come to meet for the first time, and to meet again, this Christmas, is here to meet me in this moment, in this breath, in this now.

In my stillness, I may see the whole of God in a sunflower seed if I look with the eyes of my heart.  The awe and wonder of this possibility is inexpressible.  It is that which I look for.

“How does a person seek union with God?”  the seeker asked.

“The harder you seek,” the teacher said, “the more distance you create between God and you.”

“So what does one do about the distance?”

“Understand that it isn’t there,” the teacher said.

“Does that mean God and I are one?” the seeker said.

“Not one. Not two.”

“How is that possible?” the seeker said.

“The sun and its light, the ocean and the wave, the singer and the song. Not one. Not two.”

(found in Joan Chittister, ‘The Rule of Benedict (81))

not one. not two. Canon 7D. 1/160. f/9. ISO 1250.

Published by Kate Kennington Steer

writer, photographer and visual artist

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