When I say God, what images come to mind?
As we grow in our faith, it is important to expand our notion of God so that God stays big and our relationship with God can continue to mature. It is helpful to use metaphors for God so that we can picture, conceptualize and talk about God. God is my Rock. God is King. God is Father. These metaphors bring up images and emotions for us. They also limit God. Even calling God God limits God. Language limits, so when we use language for God, it can be helpful to be critical of it as we use it. No metaphor can be expansive enough to capture the whole essence of God.
When I say God is my Rock, obviously I do not believe that God is an inanimate object. I believe God is dynamic and alive in the world. Rock is not a complete or perfect metaphor for God. It does not imply relationship. However, after living in the Rocky Mountains, I like to think of God as Rock because for me, the mountains carry with them a beauty, wisdom and steadfastness that is at the essence of God. When I stand at the base of a mountain, I am in moved to quiet awe. And so it is with God.
When I say God is King, that really does not do much of anything for me. I have never lived in a Kingdom, and from studying history, I know of many kings who were distant, corrupt, greedy and disengaged from people in need. That is not at the heart of who God is. I recognize that this metaphor does work for some people, conjuring up feelings of majesty and saying that God is in control. I appreciate Spirit’s suggestion this week to explore kin*dom as an alternative metaphor. Our world is in deep need of a sense of family.
When I say God is Father– or as Spirit challenges us, Abba– I enjoy the intimate nature of that metaphor. There is an affection, unconditional love and nurturing that comes with the metaphor for me. My dad used to walk with us for hours when we would cry as little babies. He would support us in any way he could as we grew. These are things I believe I can attribute to God. I am aware, however, that this metaphor will not work for people who have abusive fathers, or fathers who have abandoned them. And I believe that God has feminine qualities, too, and is also my Mother.
God is Wind, Creator, Fire, Redeemer, Fortress, Almighty, Counselor, Truth. All of these metaphors for God have strengths and limitations. I love holding two images of God that may contrast in my head simultaneously to keep God big. God is immanent and transcendent, for example. When my brain starts to hurt, that is when I know I am coming up upon my own human limitations to conceptualize God, who is beyond our understanding. God is God and I am not. God is both One I worship and One I co-create with here and now.
What is a popular metaphor you have heard used for God that does not work for you?
What metaphors do you use for God?
What are its strengths?
What are its limitations?
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