As we heard from Julian of Norwich (last post), when we experience God in and around everything, it changes our spiritual journeys. When we imagine God as a person, a guy who has friends, for example, we teeter in insecurity, wondering if we’ve done what it takes to be one of his friends. How many of us labor away, either trying hard to gain God’s favor or giving up in despair, believing we can never measure up? When we imagine God as a Person, persons have preferences. It is only natural to wonder if he prefers us.
Imagining God as a “man with a plan” gets us in trouble as well, especially when something bad happens in our lives. We can’t help but wonder if we misbehaved, if we missed God’s plan, or if we stepped out of God’s will. Persons have plans, and if someone crosses their plans, it makes them unhappy. Of course, many labor under the belief that God is unhappy with them.
When our God is a “man with a plan,” every time something bad happens, (a holocaust, genocide, divorce, a financial setback), we ask ourselves, “why did God plan this for me?” When a tsunami happens, and God is a Person, we can’t help but ask ourselves why a good God would cause all this torment and anguish.
However, if we think of God as soil, or fire, or song; then in circumstances both painful and pleasant, we ask very different questions. We ask ourselves if we will dance to the Divine song, warm ourselves by the Divine fire, or root ourselves in Divine virtue.
The implications of our God-images become particularly evident when tragedy strikes. One image leads us one way; another, a different way.
In our tradition, when one of our God-metaphors begins to pinch, we have always been given the permission we need to reimagine God, to hop between metaphors the same way we do in the rest of our lives. (That last sentence takes a while to explain – a later post.)
The groundwork laid in this and the last post, help us do just that. In the next few posts we’ll reimagine God in a way that may challenge our Western sensibilities.