I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but the understatement is a pretty cool rhetorical device. Now I’m not talking about annoying English politeness which refuses to get passionate about anything, that kind of understatement we can probably do without. Understatement at it’s slightly average is great to highlight the brilliance of the thing that it is understating. Understatement helps when we think about God. God is pretty hard to get your head around, getting that the Creator of the Universe delights in us, loves us with an everlasting love, is glorious in majesty etc etc is difficult. He’s a little too big for us (notice my cunning use of understatement in that very sentence). Our brains can’t cope so well and God seems highly distant (and yes sometimes it is good to realise again the majesty of God and remember that his is big…put your stick away).
Most of the time we just need to remember that God is nice and he likes us. (blame Adrian Plass for the phrase). That of course is a ridiculous understatement. He’s a God who has showered all the love in the world on us. But it’s hard to see how that could be personal, the understatement helps us cope with such love, and realise that it is indeed directed towards us. I’d like to amend that statement to ‘God is kind and he likes us’, due to the word nice being such an insipid word. But the sentiment remains. Fundamentally we need to believe and grasp the goodness and love of God towards us silly humans, and if it takes a dramatic understatement like ‘God is nice and he likes me’ to do that then I’m all for it.
Another use of the understatement I recently partook in was to say, “God is sovereign – that’s handy.” Of course it’s SO much more than handy that God is sovereign, but that’s the point. The understatement highlights the ridiculousness of what is said, it makes us laugh because it points to the genius of God without dressing it up in unaccessible high flowery language. Thus we retain a sense of humour, our sanity and we begin to grasp how incredible it is that this Massive God we deal with on a day to day basis is working in and cares about the small details of our lives.