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We all paint pictures of God. Over the years, we gather some information here, some scripture there, some thoughts from a pastor here and, subconsciously, we put them together and piece them in such a way that they make up our God. Our own little personal mosaics of who God is, to us.
As we live, this mosaic changes. I lived a few years with a nice, pretty picture of a young God who was my friend. Then, it was the old man – grandfather – Santa Clause hybrid God. And most popular these days, a more stern God who is disappointed with my sin and behavior when it’s not just right.
Of course, I have days where my mosaic of God reflects love and deep, deep care, but this is a picture I’m only now learning to paint. And still, it is only a picture.
The point is, we can’t help but create God into something tangible because the only thing we understand as people, mortal people, are tangible things. Trees, mountains, dogs, etc. But confining God to a picture is dangerous. It’s dangerous to us and it’s dangerous to those around us.
Take a moment now and picture “your” God. What does he look like? If he were a painting, what form would he take? If he were a mosaic, what pieces is he made up of? And, this is important, where did those pieces come from?
Do you have the picture in your head? Good. Now I need you to do something else.
Take that picture and tear it up. Then, take the torn-up pieces and set them on fire. Then, gather the ashes into a bucket and explode it into a million billion little tiny microscopic bits.
If we want to understand who he is and how that plays into who we are and how we live, we have to be willing to let go of our paintings and our mosaics. We have to be willing to be wrong.
Over the past year this question has been on my lips, “Who are you, God, really?” It’s a question that comes from the suspicion that I have created God to be someone he is not. Whenever we feel like we have an omnipotent being figured out, that’s when we should question ourselves, back away slowly, (maybe repent…), and begin to ask God, Who are you, really?
Are you actually mad at me? Are you really watching my every move, waiting for me to mess up? Are you as distant as you feel, meaning I can operate how I please? Are you really just a nice dad who wants me to have what I want? Are you condemning others but elevating me?
When we live and breathe under our paintings of God, depending on what that painting looks like, we grow accustomed to feeling shame, or paralyzed in our decisions, or we experience the type of freedom that is really bondage. And then we begin to reflect that kind of God to others.
We glorify a Santa Clause God or a BFF God or a cruel teacher God. I wouldn’t feel inclined to worship any of those, would you?
This scripture is becoming more and more true for me these days: “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away… For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:9-10,12).
God knows us fully. We are pretty easy to understand. And, he made us. He, however, is not as easy to understand. Once you think you have him all figured out, he blows your mind with something that shatters the image of him you painted.
I don’t want to confine God to a painting anymore. Instead, I want to just keep asking, Who are you, really? And keep asking it and keep asking it and keep asking. I think the more we do and the more we genuinely seek an answer, the more glimpses we will receive of truth. And the more glimpses we receive of truth, the more beautiful God will become.