Thursday, September 23, 2010

I Don't See It That Way

You, my friend, were created in the image of God. And so was I. It is a mind-boggling measure of God's complexity that both of us, and everyone who reads this, and all our children, siblings, co-workers, friends and enemies were also created in the image of God. It is beyond the scope of our human imaginations to conjure a being of such diverse and transcendent qualities.

Because we cannot imagine a Being so complex, we have a tendency to focus on God in our own image. Those of us who are (or aspire to be) powerful, are drawn to God's power and might. If we are perfectionists, we tend to stand in awe of God's perfection. If we are peaceable people, we usually see God as a gathering, rather than divisive force. Loving people focus on God's compassion. God possesses all these qualities and many more.

I think this ties back to the "interior culture" I was thinking about last week. We each, literally, see the creation, and the Creator, through different eyes; and our worldview is further impacted by the lenses of our experience. Just as most of us cannot see the world from any point of view other than as an American, we also are constrained by our temperaments. This becomes abundantly clear when we wade around in the Psalms. One says "The Lord is my Shepherd", another "The Lord is my light and my salvation", still another "The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer." Elsewhere the psalmists describe and ascribe to God titles and traits: "The mighty One, God the Lord", "In you O Lord do I take refuge", "The Lord Reigns, he is robed in majesty", or "O give thanks to the Lord for he is good".

What difference does all this make? I think that, for those of us who are trying to make God known to children, an awareness of "other-ness," both from God and from one another, will bless our teachings. Someone told me yesterday that she had finally determined that the problem with a dog she was trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, to love, was that it wasn't HER dog. I think this happens between parents and children as well - too often the God a parent introduces to a child is constructed in the parent's own image. So what the child then sees is God as a BIGGER parent - an extension of the parent, rather than a larger, more complex and separate being. This can be a serious distortion, one that gives a child a false relationship with God - and one that potentially carries with it all the issues of the parent-child relationship.

Which brings me back to a familiar theme: people were made for community. In the community there are people who can enlarge both your own, and your children's perceptions of God. People who can describe their experience of God from a worldview that may be far from your own but closely attuned to your child's point of view. The community provides yet another reflected image of God to contribute to our understanding. So jump in - there are lots of different people in the swimming hole of the community
and God will be reflected in many different places. And you know, we all look different when we're wet.

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