It made sense to me growing up that one day, a person reaches a certain age and understands life. Who we are, what this world is about and our place in it suddenly falls into place, like the glorious moment of placing the final piece of a 1,000 piece puzzle, like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
As I got older, that magical age seemed later and later, and finally completely wrong!
Of course there is no magical age. Life is a puzzle, you betcha, but not one meant to complete because the image is constantly changing. What makes sense in one season of life is contradicted in the next. Welcome to humanity.
I find a resounding theme in the early pages of Karoline Lewis’ book She: Five Keys to Unlock the Power of Women in Ministry. A preaching professor at Luther Seminary, Lewis is appropriately spending a significant amount of ink inviting readers to imagine how we read the Bible. “We make a lot of claims about who God is supposedly for or against without offering the corollary claim of what kind of God we assume God to be.” (Page 19)
The corollary claim, that is, our own imaging of God.
Growing up, as I awaited the magical age of understanding, I also believed the point of the Bible was to help all of see God in the same way. That if we dug deeply enough into Scripture, it would finally be like placing the last piece of the 1,000 piece puzzle and finding the pot of gold.
Enter the problem. If you know more than one person who is a Christian, you know two different understandings of God. There is no magical way of understanding God and the Bible that tells God’s story.
To imagine God in the words of Scripture, you need two things: a Bible, and you. You understand the God in Scripture out of your beliefs and biases. If we are perfectly honest, just as no two lives are the same, no two understandings of God are exactly the same.
If we see God as a judging ruler who is quick to point out which rules you just broke, we may not see God as a co-creator of justice and mercy with us. If we see God as creator of order who has already laid out a plan for creation, we might not see God as one who weeps at humanity’s destruction.
All this to say, take Lewis’ advice and spend some time naming your adjectives for God. Wonder what Biblical stories and what parts of your own story lead you to the particular way you imagine God.