One of the ways I’m continually fascinated in the Bible are the vivid word pictures God sets before us. I’m like bread, like water. My kingdom’s like yeast—but be careful, the bad guys are, too.
I’ve been turning this over in my brain more recently as I pick my way through Lauren Winner’s latest book, Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God. Winner and I occasionally diverge theologically, but I still get so much out of her writing (how can I not, withnuggets like, “Cupid came and shot me with a Bible arrow”?).
This book spirals around the idea of our metaphors of God. It unfurls how our favored images influence us and define our responses and ways of being with God (and the resulting images of ourselves!), fleshing out some unlikely pictures of God found in Scripture and in life.
Winner quotes Carolyn Jane Bohler:
To be useful, a metaphor for god needs to evoke [two] reactions at the same time: “Oh yes, God is like that,” and “Well, no, God is not quite like that.”
My attention is often grabbed by images and metaphors that can be found in my daily life—clothing but not shepherds, fire but not kings…to call God “shepherd” [in the time of the Bible]…was to describe God with images drawn from people’s quotidian repertoires…An ordinary Tuesday—what you wear, what you eat, and how you experience the weather—has something to offer you about God.
This clicked with me, perhaps especially as a blogger who is constantly peering at my surroundings for the purposes of this open-to-the-public journal in front of you, where I slide the substance of my day into piles and seek to press it into one cohesive lump. Somehow it awakens my mind to comb through my days, looking for God. Winner has added some definition to this idea of having the “mind of Christ”—
‘and then the two worlds, visible and invisible, will become familiar to us even as they were to Him (if reverently we may say so)…and on occasion sparrow and lily will recall God’s providence, seed His Word…’ (quoting Christina Rossetti)
I love the mental scene of Jesus doing this; of Him watching His mother knead bread, of witnessing one of those beloved sparrows narrowly missing danger, or a lily’s white head bending on its stem, or a homeless man outside a gate—and braiding all of them into His pictures of God.
The Bible, of course, holds the infallible images. But I think there’s merit to still finding our own, when I think to the pure, all things are pure (Titus 1:15) and that the eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light (a lamp! another of His collected images).
With that said, I’ve compiled a brief list from my own meanderings. (Once I started, I admit it was hard to stop!) You might resonate, or might not—or might simply find it inspiring toward your own list. Somehow He is the ultimate of all these things, and yet not like any of them.
God is like…
- that tree I see outside my window, orderly and artistic at the same time, its denseness relieving my family from heat.
- the comfy pair of black pants I save for Saturdays: unpretentious and perfect for moving, for comfort, for rest, for curling up with my kids, for tasks, for being myself no matter how long they stick around.
- the bougainvillea climbing the brick in our compound in its flourishing beauty and flashy, saturated color.
- my son’s humor-loving, toothy smile when he realizes he’s told a fantastic joke. God revels in fun and the quirkiness of life.
- a loaf of homemade, whole-grain bread right out of the oven: nourishing, warming, comforting, soft and wholesome on my pallet.
- the neighborhood kids without shoes who poke their heads in our gate, asking if they can come play. Somehow He says, See, I don’t forget them. Look how I love their cackling, uncomplicated joy.
- the locks of thick steel that click into place at night: offering the unwavering peace, security, and protection with which I can sink my head into my pillow.
- my youngest son in his enthrallment with the world’s intricate, vast engineering and secret mysteries.
- being tucked safely inside after a snowstorm: delightfully protected and warm, finding great benefit in life slowing down for a few days.
- my dad, faithfully repairing items of all stripes with glee and fascination.
- lavender, disarming the senses, soothing the mind just by inhaling its organic, simple goodness.
- a cozy chair: embracing after a long day, with just enough room for the little person beside you.
- a great novel: delicious, spurring on the mind and the heart; captivating and alive.
- a ripe mango, too much sweetness running down my chin, provoking a grin, and filling my stomach; strengthening even my cells.
- my best teachers. He rubs up against my mind, opening my eyes–exclaiming, See?!
- a hot shower after a long day.
- a workout. Sweaty, building muscles (I sure hope), more than I actually want to do, but ultimately what I need.
- my friend Oliver, who always does more than I expect, and is how I survived more than six weeks in Africa.
- a refugee. Persistent in triumph, flourishing despite profound loss.
- a trampoline, turning my efforts into something superhuman.
What is God like for you?