For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
“The frog in the well knows nothing of the sea.”
So goes the Japanese proverb based on an ancient Chinese fable about a frog who lived in a well. The frog was bred, hatched, and brought up in a well and knew every inch of the well. But one day an eagle that had flown high and far told the frog about the ocean. The frog could not imagine an ocean and thought of it as but another well.
I often remember that proverb and fable when challenged by life, as well as Scripture, to encounter the God whose thoughts and ways are far beyond me. That is what the great prophet Isaiah speaks of in today’s scripture in his experience of God. Having been granted visions of God on His throne, “high and exalted” (Isaiah 6), Isaiah hears God speak: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God is simply beyond us!
Thus, the Spirit of God daily commands us to practice what the Bible calls metanoia, the Greek word for “change of mind”, “change of thought”; commonly translated, “repentance”. Daily we need metanoia, or to repent of thoughts falling short of God’s ways and thoughts. This sort of repentance would lead us to join the apostle Paul in praise of God: “O the depth of the riches and wisdom of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33). Or, as a professor cautioned me: “Do not try to unscrew the inscrutable!”
As Christians we must pray to know what cannot be known: “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19). And as Christians we offer thanks for a gift beyond our abilities to express: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift in Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 9:15). You and I daily live in wondrous realities beyond our abilities to take in: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). God’s grace and love are simply beyond us!
I often reflect on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope providing evidence of galaxies numbering in the hundreds of billions! God is showing us that He does things in a big way! But if that is what God is doing in the old creation, how much bigger is what God is doing in His “new creation” of you and me! (2 Corinthians 5:17). God has plans and purposes far beyond our little frog-well thinking and acting.
As I ponder the wonder of God, I am helped by words from the anonymous 14 century classic, The Cloud of Unknowing:
“God can certainly be loved, but not thought. He can be taken and held by love but not by thought. Through God’s grace, our minds can explore, understand, and reflect on creation and even on God’s own works, but we cannot think our way to God.”
Lord, we cannot think our way to you. What you are doing in our trials and suffering is far beyond us. And what you have prepared for us is far beyond us. But we can love you and we can serve you, until we step beyond our little frog-well. Then we shall spend eternity coming to know you more and more! Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom of God!
A fellow traveler,