The Unedited Self

I remember reading in The New Testament and the People of God, the author describing the work of the historian. He said his duty is not just to give the bare statement of the facts but he picks and chooses what to say and what not to say based on certain criteria. This really caught my attention as I pondered over it because I recognised in a way we all do that.

Whenever we speak our thoughts never come out truly unfiltered. In the massive variegated swirl of life experiences that make us who we are, we choose to speak and act in only certain ways out of millions and millions of possible options. I am not saying people are deceptive and do not show who they really are, even though there are certainly people like that. I also do not mean this in the dramaturgical sense where we are only doing things sociologically to improve our public image. I think even in our thoughts we have an edited version of ourselves. Like in the brilliant poem by Lade Wosornu The Master Brewer, the various ingredients that form the makeup of our identity are things we pick and choose out of our accumulated experience and where we believe we are heading. In a sense there is a hermeneutical loop of self-interpretation where our thoughts influence our actions but our actions also influence our thoughts. So if this is possibly how we understand ourselves then how does God look at us?

One of my favourite book series is Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. He spent several decades of his life working on the Middle-Earth saga yet he did not finish everything in his fantasy epic. One of his last works was Simarillion which more or less gives the origins of the fictional world he created. Tolkien left enough manuscripts and notes and other material such that his son Christopher could edit and finally publish. Working with the material he had, he was able to create new things to fill out gaps good enough to produce a largely coherent narrative, even though somethings will sadly forever remain incomplete. What if God sees us that way? What if all the material of personal anecdotes we constantly edit into our self-image are laid completely bare on the desk of our lives before him? I think he knows all the options before us, what we are able to perceive and how we make our decisions based on them. I think he has complete unfettered access to the unedited self.

I am interested in God’s perception of us and how it works because of its implications on how he judges us. I wonder how God can take the limited time span of a human life and based on that decide on a person’s eternal future. Is that enough evidence to make a secure and lasting conviction, after all is it not possible that given more time a person might change? I doubt these sought of questions I will ever get satisfying answers to them but I do trust in God’s goodness and faithfulness and that he will judge rightly. However, if God does see us like Christopher Tolkien saw his father’s work it means he has access to more information than we could possibly fathom about our very selves. He sees the intricacies of the decisions we make every millisecond that go into our formation. We have supercomputers which are capable of analysing vast amounts of big data to makes sense of complicated and seemingly unpredictable things like the weather or how drugs move through the body. Is it too much of a stretch that our Maker is at least capable of far more than this? He has the “metadata” on us to more than accurately predict who we will be over any duration or in any circumstance.

These are just my musings, assumptions and extended metaphors to help me gain a fleeting glimpse of an intelligence that is truly incomprehensible. Whether I am right or not I know that God’s final judgement will not be a flat simplistic decision based on the arbitrary fulfilment of binary do’s and don’t. His decisions about me take into account far more of myself than I even know. He truly, infinitely cares and is fully invested in my person. David said his thoughts concerning the individual are more than the sand on the seashore. David a millennia and a half ago pondered the wonders of God’s knowledge of the self. It amazes me how such theological and philosophical sophistication is found in the heart felt sincerity of a personal poem. In a sense I have had my own Psalm 139 moment, which if you have not carefully read you absolutely must. What more is left to say than praise?

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”

“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.

Amen.

Romans 11:33-36 ESV

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