What Does God Look Like?
Dec 15, 2003
I love the conversations I have with my twelve year old son, Ranin. He is such a deep thinker and I admire his insight into people and life. We had a discussion about what God might look like. Ranin said that when he tries to imagine him, he can only picture big, blurry hands. It says in the Bible that we were made in His image but it's hard to imagine this big man in the sky, as it were. Does He really sit on a throne? Does He have a beard? If He's omnipresent and omniscient then how can He be confined to a finite area, i.e., a body, an image? The infinite defies the finite, and our earthly perception really limits what we can comprehend.
It doesn't seem like we humans can actually perceive God visually in the way we do each other. If we were in a room with Him, He probably wouldn't extend a hand and say "how do you do", like another person. A direct encounter would be nothing like what we might imagine it would be. It might be like finding ourselves inside the sun, or the center of a hurricane or some other overwhelming natural force. When Moses approached the Burning Bush, his encounter with God was not wishy washy. God said to him, take off your sandals, you're standing on holy ground. Moses didn't bicker, he obeyed.
We humans constantly refer to our eyesight as proof of something's existence. Missouri for example is the "show me", state. Doubting Thomas wanted to see the wounds of Jesus. In Missouri, (and I don't know why I keep thinking of Missouri) 25 years ago there was a big billboard advertising the location of the last shoot out of Billy The Kid. (or was it Jesse James?) The advertisement said, "See the Bullet Hole!"
We don't realize how much we're impacted by our vision. We evaluate, and are attracted to things or repelled by them largely by how they appear to us. Sometimes we hear a voice singing or talking on the radio and are surprised when we finally see what the person looks like. The visual can actually change our impression.
Nursing babies experience this too -- when they're nursing, they probably aren't thinking, oh, this is my mom holding me, but they are surrounded by the familiar smell, the familiar voice, the familiar taste, and the familiar close embrace.
I told Ranin that when he grows up and gets married, he will be able to perceive his wife with not only his five physical senses but with additional senses that are even more internal and more intense. If he and his wife pray during their physical relationship they'll be more likely to sense each other's hearts spiritually. Especially if they invite God into those moments, they can form a sort of holy trinity which defies description. It can go from being a physical to a metaphysical experience.
Once I read a book about the life of a saint. The saint said that he thought he knew a lot about God. One day, God appeared to him as a magnificent light, and he heard a voice that said, "You must cultivate the field of your heart so God can dwell there. Instead of trying to be like YOU, you should try to become like ME." And the saint knew then that he had hardly begun his journey.
In our contemplative hours we can strive to know more by praying, studying scriptures or while trying to serve humanity and the earth. Religious people throughout history have longed to see the face of God or the face of Jesus.
This longing makes me think of a quote I read a few years ago that goes with pursuing our fondest dreams and the fulfillment of them:
"Don't aim at success, the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the byproduct of one's surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run -- in the long run, I say! -- success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it."
(From the preface of the 1984 Edition of "Man's Search for Meaning", by Viktor E. Frankl. Viktor Frankl survived a Nazi concentration camp, largely by living in the feeling of his love for his wife.)
Those words can be applied to our relationship with God. If we pray and pursue God only for the sake of ourselves, we probably won't get to know Him very well, but when we turn our attention to the things that concern Him such as the service of His children, our brothers and sisters across the earth, then we feel an internal alignment taking place. I believe that the prayer of God Himself is that we all get to fully experience Him face to face and heart to heart someday, and put an end to all our conjecture. I told my son to work hard and love hard and do the right thing, and someday you might feel this gigantic tap on your shoulder and you'll turn around and WOW.
Kimmy Sophia Brown has loved humor and music and freedom for as long as she can remember.She is especially passionate about the environment and caring for animals.
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