I only recently realized how much time we, me included, spend boxing up God.
And I don’t really think that it isn’t because we don’t know better. Because surely we do know better.
And I don’t really think that it is because we are consciously making an effort to smoosh the Creator of the entire universe into a package that looks really cute, all gift-wrapped and tied up with a bow. But then again, we are doing just that far more often than not. Unfortunately.
Because it seems as if maybe there really is a lot of conscious effort that goes into pretty-fying God and His ways and the works of His hands and the creations He breathes life into…
And maybe there is far too much time spent humanizing God, giving Him the characteristics that WE want Him to have, bestowing upon Him the looks WE picture Him having, granting Him the plans WE see as being most worthy for our hopefully Pinterest-perfect lives…
Quite simply, it is far easier to see God as we want to see Him.
We want Him all bundled up in a gift-wrapped, be-bowed package. And maybe not as a complex, ever-loving, all-knowing, indescribable God who does things differently because He is and He can.
Because what if we didn’t like God as He really, truly is?
What if, in reality, we would be repulsed by our Maker and His very entity, if we really, truly knew His thoughts and understood His wisdom?
What if, in reality, we would turn our backs upon Jesus Himself if He came to us differently than we envision Him?
And yet, that is what we are doing far too often when we allow our views of His perfection to warp His actual perfection. Jesus wasn’t dressed in crystal-clean sparkly-white robes with flowing soft brown locks of freshly washed hair and always impeccably trimmed beard. Most likely, Jesus Christ, our Savior, was probably dust-covered and exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally on a regular basis. Most likely He didn’t have a grocery store aisle of hair care and body wash products and laundry soap with which He could relax in a bubble bath or scrub His aching feet or spot clean His rough robe. And He could rarely catch a break in between teachings and healings and miracles and blessings so as to find “me time.”
But, none of that defined Jesus then the way it does now.
We allow artists’ renditions and Nicholas Sparks’ novels and Mel Gibson’s direction and our own mental images of His visage to craft a skewed view of God incarnate. And we allow those things to define Him more than we allow His very own self in Trinity-form to define Him. God Father. Jesus Son. Holy Spirit.
Not His cleanliness or lack thereof. Not His God-Man need for sabbath rest and prayer-full rejuvenation. Not His sandal-clad feet that were washed with a prostitute’s hands and nailed to a cross as a sin-sacrifice. While those may have been elements of His human being, they did not independently define Jesus. Or God. Or Holy Spirit.
Such thoughts could be deemed blasphemous.
And yet, that is what we are doing, most likely every single day.
Defining God in pieces and not in His wholeness.
Stripping God down into the bits we can discern from His Word and our interpretations of others’ interpretations of it.
Walling off God from the sinful and sinners, because surely He wouldn’t want to actually commune with them and isn’t already at work within them (oh yeah, and us, since we are all in the same “sinner” category – since one sin isn’t worse or better than another…).
When we are too busy identifying one component or another of His people, each one created in God’s own image and with God’s own hands, regardless of race and religion and anatomy and socioeconomics and sexual orientation, that is exactly what we are doing.
There was no delineating between skin color or belief system or wealth or sexuality in Genesis 1. God created humanity in the Trinity’s likeness – God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit – all three, smooshed into us. Not the other way around.
What if God created some people to be gay and some to have different melatonin levels and some to have curly hair and some to be compassionate, just as He created others to be straight and others to eventually lose their hair and others to have disabilities and still others to be stubborn?
What if there are elements of each of us that are made in the image of God, and no one really knows which ones those are because we don’t have God’s insights or wisdom?
What if those elements are the ones that would most obliterate our visions of God’s perfection, if we could only pinpoint which components were of God and which ones were not?
What if our free will to sin, and our decisions to act or not act upon our created selves or the choices laid before us in life, added layer upon layer of imperfections over the elements of God buried inside each of us?
Instead, we allow our own fears or intolerance or interpretations or anger or embarrassment or whatever else could cause us to rail up and rage against the sinfulness of another equally God-made person, when we are ignoring those very thoughts and words and deeds that are just as sinful as those of the sinner we’re roasting.
And to what end?
Just for the sake of bullying in the name of God? Just because we think we can claim superiority since our sins aren’t as bad as THOSE sins? Just because we think OUR God is better than the God of THOSE people who do THAT?
We are minimizing God’s image, God’s created people with all of their variations and their sins, into isolated variables that don’t agree with the God we envision as our definition of perfection.
We are telling God that He made mistakes. That He was wrong. That we know more about what He wanted in His people than He did. That our created beings would have been more perfect than those who were created in the image of God with imperfections. That our judgments of others are valid and Biblical, even if they are not and instead vilify God’s own beloveds.
We are boxing up an infinite, undefinable God into a finite entity with boundaries, unable to do and be all that He says and is.
No more. Because God is so much more than we could ever envision Him to
be. He is working in ways we will never even begin to fathom. He is redeeming His people with the grace and mercy and forgiveness we would never have offered. He is mending our brokenness in ways we never will understand. He is refining our hearts and cleansing our souls in painful and revealing ways that should cause us to shrink back and away from the idealistic pedestals we thought we deserved. He is reserving judgments that we so rightly have earned. He is shining vitally necessary light into our darkness where we desperately needed to seek and thrive in that light. He is divining mysteries that only God can unravel in His time and in His ways and with His wisdom. He is creating imperfect people who will all always still need to be made perfect in glory and through God’s incredible love and unmerited grace.
Thank God for His infinite wisdom, His unceasing love, His abiding mercy, His unending forgiveness, His everlasting grace, His constant patience, His boundlessness in all things…
May He never fit in our boxes.
“[D]eclare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:
‘What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
the things God has prepared for those who love him—
‘these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.’
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us” (1 Corinthians 2:7-12, NIV)