How do you picture God?
It’s a big question, I know. But I think it is one that we often don’t think about. Take a minute to close your eyes and picture God.
How does God appear? Is God human-like? What are God’s features expressing? How does God look at you and feel about you? Do you like the image that you have of God? Do you love it?
Although we do not see God, we all have an image of what God looks like. I’d bet that many of us have the stereotypical image of God as a bearded man with white robes (and probably white skin).
Our visual image of God often speaks loudly about how we perceive God’s character as well.
The Bible uses a diverse host of images and metaphors to speak about God’s character. God is a father (Psalm 103:13). God is a mother (Isaiah 66:13). God is a lion (Hosea 11:10). God is a lamb (John 1:29). God is Lord (Isaiah 45:5). God is like an eagle (Deuteronomy 32:11). God is our friend (John 15:15). God is a vine/vinedresser (John 15:1–2).
There are, of course, so many more; these are simply a few examples of the diverse imagery found in the Bible.
We need to continually expand our God-image and become comfortable with a full range of metaphors which help us to describe the indescribable God. God is a being beyond these earthly metaphors, and we risk losing important elements of God’s character if we overemphasize one image to the point of neglecting another.
The different metaphors and images of God often minister to me in times of need. My freshman year, I felt that God was a distant being, and familial imagery became a great comfort to me, helping me feel bold to approach God in prayer. Now, being a senior, I worry about my future, and thinking about God as Lord brings peace and a reminder that my role is to simply listen and be obedient.
If you are lonely, God, who is our friend, will be there for comfort. When we undergo temptation, we can let the Lion fight our battles for us. When we are uncertain, we can listen for and trust in the voice of the Good Shepherd.
I return to my earlier question. How do you picture God? What are the images and metaphors that you associate with God? How can your picture be expanded? What aspects of God’s character might you be neglecting? God’s transcendence? God’s nearness? God’s love? God’s lordship? God’s joy?
As we grow in our knowledge of the images and metaphors the Bible uses to describe God, we will also grow in our knowledge of God. Suddenly, our rigid and limited notions of God are blown away and we can sit in wonder and awe at the feet of a God who is so far beyond any human descriptions. Let us praise the One who alone is worthy.