In the front of my church, there is a 30 foot stained glass window of Jesus ascending into heaven.
It’s pretty garish and doesn’t quite coordinate with the electric blue and fuchsia pews and purple carpet. The ethnically white Jesus is in red robes on a blue background and has a face as symmetrical as a Ralph Lauren model.
I don’t particularly like this stained glass window, but when we inherited this building, we got the Jesus, too.
As churches and individuals, we all have our depictions of God.
Some of them are based on the theology we grew up with, some on a literalistic reading of the gospels, some on our culture, some on our fathers, and I doubt any single one of them is exactly correct. Even among people seeking God with their hearts and minds and souls, there is much diversity.
That range of opinions between people who love God yet describe him slightly differently used to make me panicked and worry constantly about getting it right.
But I have come to a new realization
If God is like our father – only perfectly good – and he delights in our being as much as our becoming, then I don’t think he’s particularly concerned with me getting everything just right and checking that off the list. I am God’s child and he treats me like nothing less, which means he’s far more interested in relationship than rightness.
I used to be trapped in the lie that God was always disappointed in me. I thought he wanted something from me that I wasn’t capable of giving: perfection. I believed that he had forced his love arbitrarily upon me instead of other people, but that I had to work to keep it, and that I could lose it at any moment. I may not have been able to articulate it, but I acted like God was waiting for me to fall so he could kick me while I was down. To teach me a “holy” lesson that would someday make sense, sure, but a kick nevertheless.
No good parent would do that, even in some twisted motivation scheme.
That way of thinking, my friends, was hell. It’s been amazing to learn that Jesus took care of the perfection part so I can learn to play like a child.
Have you hung out with any kids and made art recently? Drawing with children is one of my favorite activities, and it’s not just because my artistic talents are on par with a 6 year old’s skills.
I love the way kids draw. They draw bugs and houses and intricate comic strips and Star Wars ships and the people around them with this amazing boldness and vision. See that line? That’s a worm. Those squiggles on top of a trapezoid? That’s a girl with curly hair!
Several of my close friends are parents
And I’ve learned that Parenting makes you the recipient of hundreds of pictures, including some on unexpected canvases like the living room wall. My friends are good parents. Even when they are handed pages of crayon stick figures with crazy proportions, extra limbs, unrealistic colors, and over-sized features, they don’t reject them or spend time pointing out these mistakes. Instead, I see them offer praise, love, and then hang the drawing on their fridge. They ask their child to explain the drawing. They tweet the news and instagram a photo so more people can share in the joy of a small creation.
Why did I used to assume that God is less than good when we are capable of recognizing good human parents? Surely he is better!
Sometimes it helps me to close my eyes and actually picture myself as a child before God. It seems easier some days to just say “here, I drew a picture of you and me eating tacos together,” than to pray any grand prayers. As I talk to God about my picture of us and my day, I’m spending the time with him that will help me realize that I drew his eyes a little funny and his hands out of proportion. But I realize that through the love and relationship we have, not because he tells me I’m a screw up artist.
We come to God as children because that is how we find him.
We come to him as children because that is what we really are. That is how he says he will show up for us: as a mother hen comforting her chicks, as a servant washing our feet, as a perfect parent inviting all children to come to him. God is an excellent father, whether we’re being good or smearing paint on the walls of our lives, or biting each other, or throwing tantrums, or we don’t think we can find him, or crawling close to him because we dreamed of monsters.
We come to God as artists because this is how he made us. We create our daily lives, we design relationships, we scribble truth on our arms, we sing of grand adventures, we manifest boldness in drawing him, even if it’s out of proportion. We reflect him as we draw his love.
I’m challenging you to exercise your faith in a simple way. Draw a picture of God and show it to him. If you don’t even know where to start, start there. You can learn about him in scripture or by asking other people who love Jesus how they learned to draw God, but know that God isn’t upset if you draw him poorly. The point isn’t that you figured it out. The point isn’t to draw him just right so he’ll like you more than the other kids. It’s to show him your drawings and feel his delight in all of them.
The point is, above all, to know his love.
Speak Up! Where do you think you got your primary pictures of God? Have you ever drawn a picture for God’s fridge? Does your church have any weird stained glass?
[photo: kirstyhall, Creative Commons]