In recent days I’ve been reading Joan Chittister’s book, In Search of Belief. The book is a careful and thoughtful look at the Apostles’ Creed. When it comes time for Chittister to discuss God as “Father” it is apparent she has a problem with this appellation. It’s not that she is opposed to referring to God as Father; instead, she finds it too limiting. She feels the Church has made a mistake in focusing on just one of the Bible’s many images of God. She notes that a number of the biblical images come from Creation and feels that these, as well as others, should also be used to give us a fuller and more complete understanding of God.
Chittister argues for expanding our metaphors and images of God. She says, “By naming God everything that makes God God, we come daily to see God differently, to see God wholly. More than that, by naming God the sum total of created goodness, we come to see the rest of life differently as well. In the first place, we see God present to every distinct moment, every separate segment of life. In the second place, we come to see every distinct moment of life, every gracious mortal being around us charged with that presence. We come to see every facet of life—all of them, each of them—as glints of the Divine. We get a fuller picture of God. At the same time, we get a deeper understanding of the sacredness of a creation that shares in this diversity.”
Joan goes on to say, “When we name God fully, all of life becomes an exercise in contemplation. We touch the divine dimensions of ourselves. We see God everywhere. We feel divinity everywhere. We recognize God everywhere. And, eventually, we become what we think about. We become what we see, make holy what we touch, make sacred what we are.”
I appreciate what Chittister says here. Perhaps we have focused too much on just a few images of God when including several more would broaden both our understanding and experience of God and Jesus. I am especially drawn to the biblical images found in Creation. Jesus referred to himself as “the light of the world” and spoke of the “living waters” that came from him. I remember other nature images appearing in a hymn I sang often as a child: “He’s the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star…” Another song referred to God as “the sweetest rose of Sharon.” The Psalmist used nature images to refer to God. He spoke of God as “a sun and shield” (84:11) and “the Rock of our salvation.” (95:1)
There are lots of images of God related to nature and if we will regularly reflect on these, especially as we view them in nature itself, we should be able to connect with God in a fuller and richer way. There truly are “glints of the Divine” all around us! I encourage you to take Chittister’s lead and begin looking for other metaphors and images that will augment the few the Church has historically chosen to highlight so that you might come to know God in fresh and new ways. As Joan reminds us, “Clearly, if God is really God, no one name can possibly hold all the allusions, say all the concepts, breathe in one breath all the qualities that are God.”
(I took the top image at Antelope Canyon near Page, Az.; the middle image in Missouri’s Ozark mountains; and the bottom image at Monument Valley in Az.)