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Is THIS the God You Imagine--When You're Not at Your Best?

“Heaven delights and rejoices when a hardened heart breaks open and recognizes Love’s ever-patient Presence abiding within.”

-Psalm 97, Psalms for Praying by Nan Merrill

We become most aware of our image of God when we pay attention to how we imagine God being toward us when we are not at our best.

Does the God-of-my-understanding grimace and recoil? Does that “God” seem angry with me? Do I feel the impulse to pull away, hide, or shun myself in relation to God?

When I read Psalm 97 this morning, I was drawn to the description of my hardened heart breaking open, (we hardened our hearts, of course, to protect our wounds), and discovering “Love’s ever-patient Presence” waiting in my wounds, welcoming me. What a reassuring image!

One of the sobering realizations along my spiritual journey is that no matter how many breakthroughs I’ve had, I continue to struggle to a greater or lesser degree with the same old baggage, temptations, and failings. And when I’m caught in the throes of these familiar struggles and wounds, I’m often tempted to hide, imagining God to be cool, distant and disapproving.

I’ve wondered if this response is native to our human condition, which instinctively turns us away in shame, assuming that our Parent-God is ready to punish us for our sinful propensities. I’ve also wondered if it’s the result of some bad theology about sin. You know the saying, “God hates the sin and loves the sinner.” That usually translates into a bifurcated identity: God loves my shiny side and loathes the rest of me. And how antithetical to the way Jesus engaged with humanity, breaking bread and sharing intimate friendship with “tax collectors and sinners!”

Wouldn’t it be something if, instead of pulling away from God or imagining God pulling away from us, we opened to the possibility that Love’s every-patient Presence is waiting for us behind the thick layer of our self-protected hearts? How might that change the quality of our relationship? How might that affect the direction we turn, the place we run to?

I believe healing our God-image drastically changes the quality of our relationship and compels us to run with reckless abandoned to the One waiting for us in our wounds. For it is there, in the silent, transfixing, mutual gaze that Love heals and makes us whole.

If you are interested in reflecting more on your God image, consider reading When Faith Becomes Sight, Part II, Chapter 6: The Face of God.

When Faith Becomes Sight:

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