Bigger than words

What does God look like?

Do you perceive him as a human? Perhaps a little taller than anyone else. Farer looking, glowing skin perfect hair? Strange glow? warm, inviting posture?

Or maybe he’s sitting on a throne, and he’s got a lightning bolt in his hand.

And in front of him you measure up somewhere close to God’s knee-cap.

How do you describe the way God looks? What words do you use to frame God?

The perceptive reader might have noticed that this question is nonsense. If God is God, then matters of looks are ridiculous, since he created light and matter and the human eye and the ability to see colours and shapes and even the words to describe what we see. It’s like reading a novel and asking as your most pressing question ‘did the author use a pen or a pencil?’

Irrelevant, ridiculous, silly.

But these are the sort of thoughts I have had about God.

I might pray ‘God, I want to know you more closely. Please teach me how to follow you, fill me with your Spirit. God please forgive my sin and make me to look more like your Son, Jesus Christ’

I’d pray that prayer and in my mind I’ve already answered it.

Knowing God, well thats a matter of reading the bible more. So I endeavour to read at least 3 chapters each day. Learning how to follow God, well thats a matter of reading a good book on discipleship and reflecting on how to more accurately apply the principles of the bible to my life in attitudes, thoughts and deeds. Forgiveness, well thats easy. That means no one finds out about the porn I watched or the money I stole or how much I hate that person in my heart or the poisonous words I spoke about that friend. Looking like Jesus? well thats all about trying to be a good person by applying some basic pop-psychology which will alter my behaviour.

So with my faithless prayer I have effectively de-throned God and decided that I am in charge of my spirituality.

Now that’s a really basic example.

Let’s scale it up.

‘Holy Spirit, fall on me. Amen’

A short prayer with the most unimaginable consequences.

But I’ve already answered it.

I often equate the Holy Spirit with acting in a way thats more loving, showing more care and feeling a close intimacy with my neighbour.

Last night, God reminded me that he doesn’t obey the rules. In my arrogance I thought I had figured something out. The mystery and wonder of God was, for me, an experience of restored relationships, love and care for all people!

But last night, I was at Church and there was an invitation to recieve prayer ‘for those who feel left out to dry, like you’ve been abandoned and forgotten.’

I had to be honest with myself. Yeah, thats how I felt. And I already knew how God was going to deal with that. Why, he was going to cause my college friends to gather around me, to show me love and make me feel accepted.

So I went to respond, by walking towards the front of the gathering. I knelt down and said a short prayer. Of course I knew how my prayer was going to be answered and so it was a matter of waiting for this to occur.

But God doesn’t obey the rules.

I wish I could relay the experience I had, knelt on the floor in a large conference hall, with some annoying, cheesy Christian song playing, and everyone staring at the back of my head, and the heating making a loud blowing sound in the room.

Yet as I set my mind settle, a strong sensation overcame me. Perhaps you could picture it as soft breakers lapping the shore, or taking a bite from an exceptionally ripe, juicy passion fruit, or like sitting with friends around a fire, at the end of an evening when conversation has ended but no one wants to leave.

And there was stillness.

And I remembered that all my words and explanations can’t capture God.

And when I pray to him, with my feeble words and irreverent thoughts, he has promised that a reality grander and stranger than the one I can perceive will break through.

I wrote this short prayer in reflection of this event:

Dear God

What words should I write about you?
With what shall I come?
How can I comprehend you?

I can’t
I cannot master you
Great, Glorious Master

You are good
My Above and Beyond


One Comment

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  1. Interesting – especially the “what does God look like?” bit. I heard an interview with the Bishop of Horsham recently, conducted by, of all people, Ali G. His first question was “So what does God look like?” The bishop explained that “the best way I can answer that is to say he’s sort-of Jesus-shaped.” Ali G thought he was meaning physically – the beard, the long hair etc. It was interesting to see what was important to him – “does he have a beard”, “is he a man or a woman”.

    Good post, IB.


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