Think of God, picture Him in your mind. What do you see? What do you feel? Do you know why?
The picture of God we carry with us is likely to have been formed by our own past, our experiences and how we have come to know God. The image of God we carry with ourselves may well be quite different from other people’s. My Vocations Chaplain has asked me to think the image I carry and about who God is to me.
I grew up an agnostic. I always felt that coincidence and chance alone could not explain the existence of the world. Yet I couldn’t accept a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis that says the world was created in 6 days, and not only because of the apparent conflict with the existence of dinosaurs. Then there was the Big Bang Theory, way before it moved from a hypothesis to a replacement for Friends – something can’t come from nothing so something must have existed before the Big Bang.
As I wrestled with such thoughts I came to a point where I could accept that an entity, let’s call it God, could have existed before the Big Bang and still exist today. It therefore followed, in my mind at least, that this God could have created the universe and the world we call home. At this point I stopped. I parked the idea of exploring how or if God was created. it was akin the perennial question, which came first the chicken or the egg? So I decided to concentrate on looking into whether I could believe in Him.
I began going to church, to one that gave me the space to listen and think. In time I came to believe that God did indeed exist; that He came to this world in Jesus; that Jesus sacrificed Himself as an atonement for our sins; and that we now had the opportunity to have a personal relationship with the God that created us.
With this lead up to gaining a faith in God it is perhaps no surprise that my first image of God was one of God the creator. As a creator he has power beyond anything humans can muster. This image was also one of a purposeful creator and to me that made Him a kind, caring and loving God – He chose to make us and an amazing world for us to live in. That God has the ability to wipe us out but doesn’t further illustrates His love, and His patience.
Recently God reminded me of that image. He spoke clearly to me that whilst we should have a respectful fear of His power, He doesn’t want us to be afraid, He wants us to realise that He loves us more than we can imagine and to enjoy being in His presence.
As I began to spend time with God and in fellowship with others a different but complementary picture emerged, one of God the Father. It wasn’t one of a ‘fire and brimstone’ wrath-filled father, or a strict Victorian father who believed that a child should be seen but not heard. The Father God I saw emerge out of my Bible studies was one of a nurturing father.
God set boundaries from the beginning. They were more than a moral code imposed on God’s people, they were a structure to build strong and fruitful lives upon. Without boundaries we find an aimless anarchy. I saw that as a child and now see it from the point of view of being a father myself. Without boundaries and guidance we are lost.
The boundaries that God sets us are not there to condemn us and suck the joy out of life, but to help us to learn what is right and how best to do things. When we ignore those boundaries, whether deliberately or not, and get things wrong He forgives us, picks us up, dusts us off and sends us on our way with a reminder of how we should act in the future. That He continues to do that time after time after time shows an awesome level of patience!
Like a good father God doesn’t compared us to a sibling or a wonder-kid. God treats each of us as the unique and special child that we are. He knows our individual strengths and weaknesses, and tailors His guidance to us. He knows out potential too and is desperate to help us achieve that, and in doing so experience the richness and fullness of the life and creation He established.
Throughout the Old and New Testaments one thing is clear to me, God loves us unconditionally and delights in being in the company of his children. He is never happier than when His children want to spend time with Him and choose to love Him.
That is who God is to me. Who is God to you?