formation friday: God expanded
- a.w. tozer
i’m not sure i completely agree with this quote but it does make me think. it also makes sense why so many of our distorted and jacked up images of God have gotten us into so much trouble!
i can’t remember if i wrote this here or somewhere else but i will always remember when i was at denver seminary and my spiritual formation group leader (who was awesome) challenged us by playing a song that reflected a female image of God. it was a gregorian-chant-like piece & trust me, the entire group was royally ticked off by the end. her challenge to us was that even though in typical evangelical circles the image of God as father is by far most prevalent, there are many people who have had damaging experiences with men that have robbed them of the ability to connect with God as father freely. her take was that as pastors & ministry leaders & spiritual directors, we had better be aware of this reality. i will always remember people’s reactions in the class, how angry they were at this suggestion that God could possibly be mother.
and i will always remember what it did for me–it expanded my view of God in a radical way. this was in 2002, 10 years ago, and in my evangelical world it was the first time anyone openly challenged me to consider expanding my view of God.
since then, you all know, it’s gotten bigger and bigger and bigger.
i personally don’t have trouble relating to God as father as much anymore although my reflex is still to make a connection with my earthly father (who is a dear person but an alcoholic and not able to be the kind of dad that is involved in my life the way i longed for for many years). with healing & time & God’s help some of that has unhooked and i don’t blame God or have him conformed to my dad’s image in those same ways. in other words, my reflex is improving. i might go there out of instinct and reflex, but i don’t stay there as long as i used to. (to me, that’s a definition of healing: when the time that we unnecessarily stay in crappy places gets shorter and shorter).
several years ago my spiritual director had me practice something that was really hard for me to do with God–experiencing God as a friend. a fun friend. someone i wanted to just hang out with & laugh with & be with. i have heard all of the cookie cutter answers for years about “Jesus is your friend” but the truth is that i never related to him like that because i also heard a lot of “Jesus wants you to be like this or be like that” and most of my friends didn’t expect me to be different all the time but loved me just the way i was.
my spiritual director had me center on expanding my view of God to faithful, fun friend. she encouraged me to read rumi & hafiz & turn my heart and mind toward laughter and lightness instead of heavy spiritual lifting all of the time. i can’t say it magically shifted everything, but i can say that it opened me up to a new side of God that needed opening. i sometimes tell people who are struggling with deconstruction and losing-all-they-once-held-dear to consider one aspect of God they either still can connect to or want to connect to and let that be enough.
even beginning to change language can open new doors.
i know many of you are expanding your view of God after trying to fit his big butt in a box for far too long (i love that cartoon below by my friend david hayward). and i know many others of you are beginning to consider new ways of connecting with God that might feel scary.
regardless of where you are at, here are a few processing/prayer prompts to consider when it comes to expanding our view of God:
i used to think God was only….
and this view helped me….
now, things are changing & i’m more open to the possibility that maybe God is…
this expanded view helps me…
an aspect of God i’m exploring more of this season is….(just a few possibilities, there are so many others, all reflected in scripture in different ways: God as Father, God as Mother, God as Friend, God as Brother, God as Protector, God as Nurturer, God as Provider, God as Shepherd, God as Wisdom, God as Jesus, God as Spirit…)
when i say that out loud i hear a voice in my head that says...(this question will only make sense for people who have been taught that only certain images of God are okay).
but i’m going to be brave and open to new possibilities because….
God, help me know you more as _______. i really want to….
i’d love to hear some of your responses. may we find God in all kinds of new and brave and healing and wonderful ways in the months & years to come. have a great weekend! peace, kathy
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how many of you are tired of doing this? thanks, david hayward. you rock. (i’ve got an interview with him coming next week!)
other formation friday posts if you’re new here and want to check them out:
- formation friday: deep, wide, high long love
- formation friday: frantic
- formation friday: security
- formation friday: pilgrimage
- formation friday: a shifter’s prayer