CONTACT: Rev. Mark Taylor firstname.lastname@example.org 405.341.3544
Each year as part of our Pastors’ Class, we ask participating students to draw a picture of their earliest image of God. This typically reveals two things: first, most of the kids going through Pastors’ Class have far more artistic ability than I do and therefore don’t have to adopt my practice of labeling elements of their drawings so people don’t get confused. Second, it’s not uncommon for many of these images to be pretty similar. Let me share one of my own earliest images of God. I pictured God as an old man with a rockin’ white beard sitting in an uncomfortable-looking wooden rocking chair in some far-off land in the clouds. I really couldn’t tell you what shaped that image, but there you have it.
After our young artists re-create the ways in which they first imagined God, we ask them to do the same for the way in which they now imagine God. This task has some interesting results. For some, the two images are more or less the same. For others, there is a significant difference between early and current images of God, often with the current images being more abstract as compared to the defined, practical pictures of childhood. The whole point of the exercise is to begin to understand how our faith is dynamic and grows with us as we go throughout life.
Would you consider doing this exercise with me? Take a moment and think back to your earliest images of God. How did you imagine God? What were God’s characteristics that stand out to you as you first began to understand the Divine? Let that sink in for a few moments.
Then ask the same questions about how you understand God now. What images come to mind? What are the defining characteristics? Is there a significant difference between the two or are they more or less the same?
One of the greatest and wondrous things about our faith is that God is bigger than our imagination. Though we may imagine God in a certain way as a child, that does not mean God is bound to that image. Similarly, even though we may imagine God completely different now, God is no more bound to that picture than the earlier image. As we go throughout our lives and continue to have new and different experiences, the ways we understand ourselves and the world around us changes. So, too, does the way we understand God and our faith. Let us take comfort in knowing that no matter what changes we may experience and no matter how our understanding of the Divine evolves and changes, that God is big enough for that.
But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” Exodus 3:13-14 (NRSV)