What Does Your God Look Like?

There is no one description.  There are dozens of metaphors for the divine offered in the words of Scripture.  Potter.  Creator.  Wind.  Mother.  Spirit.  But, let’s be honest.  That’s not what most of us think about when we think about God.  When we see that name, when we consider that being, we see a man.  He’s usually old.  He’s always white.  He has a long beard and wears a white robe.  He dwells among the clouds.  That’s God.  That’s what God looks like.

I thought this too.  Until I was 13, I had never been challenged to consider what God looks like.  I just assumed that this was the way God looked.  It’s what I had seen in art.  It’s what I knew to be, but I never thought that God was angry.  Michelangelo obviously did.  In this image from the Sistine Chapel, it looks like God is going to bring complete and total destruction to anyone that doesn’t imagine him to look exactly like this.  (Or maybe he’s mad that he’s in pink.)

However, this is not what my God looks like.  It took me a long time to figure this out for myself.  When I was 13, my minister drew a picture of an energy source to illustrate the divine.  I drew something more like Michelangelo’s image.  I had no idea what to do with this — and quite honestly, I didn’t do much with it for a long time.  As I matured, I embraced God as mother.  I loved the embrace of God’s outstretched arms in Matthew 23:37.  There are other references that evoke this motherly image but it was this one that invited me to see God in hands.  That’s what God was for a long time.  Not literal hands, but these ethereal hands that I could reach out for and hold at any time.  That was before I had a prayer life.

When I started to really pray, things changed again.  God became a light that hovered just outside of my vision.  God lit up dark places and radiated through light places.  God was that light that I saw inside and outside of my prayers.  That light has been with me for some time.  Like the ethereal hands, it described my relationship with God.  I knew how to seek God because I only needed to find the light which wasn’t hard to do.  I don’t know how to find a man in the clouds.  It’s why that other image never really worked for me.  That particular image made God too foreign.  Too inaccessible.  I needed something else.  The ethereal hands worked for a while, but something changed.  It wasn’t a conscious decision but something that was revealed in the ways that I was trying to find God.  Reaching out my hand didn’t work anymore.  Instead, I needed to close my eyes.  That was how I could see the light and find my God.  Now, that’s changing again.  I’m somewhere in between of the light and something else.  Now, God isn’t outside of my vision.  I don’t need to close my eyes as much anymore.  I honestly don’t understand that, but for some reason God has become a spherical thing that resides in the very place that my Buddhist friends find their third eye.  I don’t understand this change.  It’s still very new.  It doesn’t make sense to me yet.  Still, I know that this image works for me.  To know that God is literally between my eyes helps me to find my way in the world.  To know that God is trying to see with me gives me strength to know that I’m not alone.

I shared part of this story at the Women’s Retreat this past weekend.  I was surprised that others hadn’t considered this.  I forget that not everyone is as visual as I am.  My head is full of images.  I need pictures to understand the world around me, but I forget that everyone isn’t like that.  So, I listened before I asked this question: What does your God look like?  I was met with surprise — which I found again when I opened my email this morning.  We default often to automatic answers.  We rely on those stories that we were told in Sunday School (if we went to Sunday School), but faith is about a personal relationship rooted in the things that we’ve come to understand about God and ourselves.  I need an image to know how to understand that relationship.  So, I ask that same question to others because there is no one answer.  What’s yours?

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