As the saying goes, God only wants one thing: everything. Spiritual rebirth might be a one-time event (though I’m not even sure of that), but redemption of our lives is an on-going and challenging process.
Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable before God, just as God has poured Godself out before us, is vulnerable before us. Being vulnerable before God, we trust God and invite God’s movement in and through our lives. We are open to God’s renewal and transformation of our lives, how we think and act.
But the grounding for being vulnerable and open to God is knowing and trusting God. Our image of God shapes that, is the root of that.
How can we be vulnerable before a God who reminds us of our authoritative father? Who makes us feel judged and ashamed?
But an image which shows love poured out, welcoming us just as we are without any masks or holding back, a God who wants to see us flourish? That’s a God we can melt before, lay out our weaknesses and hurts before, a God we can trust not just in the good times, but one we can lean on and share the bad with. Knowing God’s heart hurts when we hurt, we can be vulnerable in God’s presence because God meets us where we are.
What we imagine when we think of God, that shapes and defines how we can relate to God. Even if we know in our heads that God is trustworthy and loving, if every time we seek out God we are instead reminded of someone we were meant to be able to trust but couldn’t, or someone who was meant to love us, but never showed it, then our hearts cannot meet God’s.
No matter how much our head tries to convince us, there is no room in the shape we have of God in our hearts to fit these aspects, and there can be no deep connection.
How we imagine God to be shapes how we can relate to God. And sometimes the images we use or are familiar with need to shift, need to change.
Part of choosing a church, for me, is finding a group of people who talk about God in a way that draws me closer to God. I once went to a church for a while where their dominant image of God was one of God far off in heaven, Jesus was an ascended being, not Emmanuel here with us, God was Almighty, Dominant Power, and distant.
It bled my heart dry trying to reach this distant, cold God. My heart hungered for Emmanuel, God right here with us, Spirit dwelling inside of us, the God who loved us so much that God couldn’t stay away, who was constantly reaching out to us across the gap between human and divine. That was a God I could trust and be vulnerable before, but I couldn’t find that God in that church.
The way they spoke of God, the songs they sang, all put a distance between me and God, and I was left out in the cold.
So I went elsewhere.
And I found God in my pregnant belly. Not literally, but the image of God as Mother, child-me held safe, close, and unconditionally loved, just as I was feeling towards my own unborn child, that was an image of God that drew me in.
I’m not saying everyone needs to imagine God in the same way I do. I know the same image cannot work for everyone. And I think that’s why there’s so many different images of God in the Bible.
But in many churches there is a focus on just a few, and in the whole of Western culture the Father image of God is very strong.
What I want is to invite you to look at the images of God you use, what is your go-to label for God? Ask yourself, does this image draw me in to God? What aspects of God draw me closer? And start building your image of God from there. Look at who and what has given you a sense of security, made you feel loved, inspired you to grow, to reach further, because that is what God wants for you.
An image of God which doesn’t encourage you to be vulnerable, to be open, to grow, where you don’t feel loved and welcomed, is not true to a God who is Love, a Jesus who welcomed sinners and social rejects.