What is your image of God? If you’re not sure, take out a piece of paper and quickly make a list of one or more words that come to mind when you ask, “Who is God to me?”
As a spiritual director, one of the things I help people do is come to understand what images or metaphors they use for God. At different times in our lives we may focus on one image more than another, or one story or poem from Scripture that touches our heart, telling us something of who God is and how God is speaking to us at a particular time.
In the gospels we find God compared to a woman searching for what is lost (Luke 15:8-10) or a father waiting anxiously for the return of a wayward child (Luke 15:11-32). In the psalms we read, God is a judge who defends the weak against their oppressors (Psalms 76 and 82), a hand that upholds his own (psalm 63), as our light and a stronghold (psalm 27). In Isaiah, we read that God is also like a mother in labor, “For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept still and restrained myself; now I cry out like a woman in labor…” (Is 42:14).
As each of us investigates the way we conceive of God through these images, it is important to remember 1. That no one image can fully express who God is, 2. they are not literal but allegorical, 3. Some images we have lived with for years may need to be revised. This latter one would apply to images of God as “score-keeper” or “angry-vindictive ruler.” These kinds of images are not Scriptural and can harm our spiritual growth.
Below is a meditation to help us grow in the knowledge of our image of God taken from Women at the Well by Kathleen Fisher called, “The Many Names of God.”
This exercise is a way to enter into the Presence of God through the many names of God which reveal some aspect of the divine mystery. Its purpose is to deepen and widen our experience of God, and free us from constricting images. The list is drawn from the experience of women, biblical passages, and women’s mystical literature. It can be expanded from the same sources.
Relax and quiet yourself in some way. Then slowly address God with the following names, entering into the Presence they evoke. If that Presence becomes especially strong with any name, simply rest in it, returning to it when your mind begins to wander.
- You are Fire
- You are Shelter in the Storm
- You are Breath
- You are Wisdom
- You are Darkness
- You are Friend
- You are Lover
- You are Mother…
After prayer, make a resolve to keep your eyes open as you go through your day, for the many ways God reveals to us something of the divine!
Copyright 2014 Julie Lynn Paavola
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