Images of God
What Kind of God Do We Believe In?
Tuesday, November 30, 2021
Author and Benedictine sister Joan Chittister catalogs how some of the most common images of God influence our behavior and reminds us that we can choose more helpful and loving images.
In the long light of human history, then, it is not belief in God that sets us apart. It is the kind of God in which we choose to believe that in the end makes all the difference. Some believe in a God of wrath and become wrathful with others as a result. Some believe in a God who is indifferent to the world and, when they find themselves alone, as all of us do at some time or another, shrivel up and die inside from the indifference they feel in the world around them. Some believe in a God who makes traffic lights turn green and so become the children of magical coincidence . . . . Some believe in a God of laws and crumble in spirit and psyche when they themselves break them or else become even more stern in demanding from others standards they themselves cannot keep. They conceive of God as the manipulator of the universe, rather than its blessing-Maker. . . .
I have known all of those Gods in my own life. They have all failed me. I have feared God and been judgmental of others. I have used God to get me through life and, as a result, failed to take steps to change life myself. I have been blind to the God within me and so, thinking of God as far away, have failed to make God present to others. I have allowed God to be mediated to me through images of God foreign to the very idea of God: God the puppeteer, God the potentate, God the persecutor make a mockery of the very definition of God. I have come to the conclusion, after a lifetime of looking for God, that such a divinity is a graven image of ourselves, that such a deity is not a god big enough to believe in. Indeed, it is the God in whom we choose to believe that determines the rest of life for us. In our conception of the nature of God lies the kernel of the spiritual life. Made in the image of God, we grow in the image of the God we make for ourselves. . . .
Chittister invites us to the prayerful inner work necessary to discover the God we really believe in, for the sake of encountering the true and living God:
Until I discover the God in which I believe, I will never understand another thing about my own life. If my God is harsh judge, I will live in unquenchable guilt. If my God is Holy Nothingness, I will live a life of cosmic loneliness. If my God is taunt and bully, I will live my life impaled on the pin of a grinning giant. If my God is life and hope, I will live my life in fullness overflowing forever.
Joan Chittister, In Search of Belief (Liguori Publications: 1999), 20–21, 22.
Story from Our Community:
I really resonate with Fr. Richard’s message that we are loved children of God. As a hospital chaplain, I say it often, especially in our behavioral health units. So many people who have never been told they are a loved child of God—that they can even be loved. Usually, the tears start to flow and I know that God has touched their hearts. I feel blessed to share the love. —Dawn C.
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