Sunday, August 9, 2015

A Picture of God

"Sunday Morning"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

When I woke up on this Sunday morning I had this immediate flashback to my days as a child. Sundays were always church days in our family and I remember my mother motivating me to get ready by telling me that I had to look my best because this morning we were going to visit God.

Actually paying a visit to God didn’t seem all that odd to me. After all, people referred to the neighborhood church as “the house of God,” and all my teachers told me that it was the place where God lived. Going to church on Sunday was like going to visit a kindly relative or a next-door neighbor. And to be honest, it was kind of nice to know God’s address just in case I ever needed to contact him.

As a matter of fact, growing up as a child, I even knew what God looked like- I had a picture of him.   On my Sunday visits I would sometimes bring along a little “holy card” that had been given to all the children. On the card was a picture of Michelangelo’s renowned “creation of man” fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel - a picture of God, that stern, powerful and yet kindly old man in a heavenly realm, his divine finger touching the human finger of the younger Adam, infusing life into him.

It was nice to be able to visit God, it was even more assuring to know what God looked like--After all, I had his picture in my pocket.

Of course as I grew older I came to realize that the card in my pocket wasn’t actually a picture of how God really looked and yet it took me a real long time to convince myself that I didn’t have God all that “pinned down” – it was kind of comforting to think I knew what God looked like and where he lived so I could go visit him on Sunday.

Of course there are no pictures of what God looks like because God is a great unknowable mystery who can never be boxed in by our glib words and elaborate images and yet, as my atheist friends like to tell me, “If you can’t even talk about or describe who God really is, how do you know God exists?” 

I always say that the way I talk about God falls in the same category as the way I talk about love – no words can pin down, measure or quantify what love looks like and yet I know that love is real.

There is a passage in the Christian Scriptures that actually does paint a very vivid picture of who “God” really is – it offers a rather precise definition.

The Bible says:

God is love.
Where there is love, there is God. (1 John 4:16)

I no longer think that God is a heavenly being who lives in the sky and also maintains a residence in a church to be visited from time to time on a Sunday morning; but I do actually believe that I can see God and I know where God lives.

When I see the look of love in the eyes of my spouse or experience love as a father or a grandfather at the sight of my own children and grandchild, I see a picture of God. When I notice the many acts of kindness I see people expressing every day- food donations for the hungry or homeless, a doctor’s gentle care for a dying patient, the warm embrace of friends who meet, I see a picture of God,

I know what God looks like and I know where God lives:

God is love.
Where there is love, there is God.

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