Many of you know that Gem and I have come to find ourselves at home in the Anglican church over the last few years. One of the gifts we’ve enjoyed in this tradition is its attention to the annual rhythms of the church calendar. This Sunday is the beginning of Advent. It is a time to give special attention and focused reflection on the coming of Christ to live among us.
God with us. There is hardly any more important reality to remember. I’m not waiting for God to show up. I’m not seeking to locate a God who is in a different zip code than me. God is here…with me…now. And also with you. That’s the good news of Advent. Let that sink and soak in just a bit more deeply. And whether or not you trust that this is truly good news—the best news—possible likely depends on your gut image of God.
Years ago, when I was a college pastor, I wrote a little worship chorus rooted in God’s description of Himself to Moses in Exodus 34. It has become lines of truth that have been making themselves more and more at home in my thoughts, my beliefs, and my assumptions about who God is. And I’m still learning to trust them more.
“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7 NIV)
Isn’t that a remarkable statement of the nature and character of our God? As I reflect on them again as I draft this post, I continue to realize that there is always at least some distance between my professed image of God and my functional image of God. There is the God of my stated beliefs and the God of my gut.
What image of God do I teach, preach or talk about with others? How have the scriptures and my church experience shaped that image? Now what about the image of God implied in the way I pray? How has that image been shaped by both positive and negative relational experiences I’ve had so far in life? How might God’s description of himself enrich our experience of Advent this year?
How deeply do I trust that God is
- Compassionate? Do I believe that He feels and cares about what burdens me, worries me, or concerns me?
- Gracious? Do I believe that He loves being generous with me?
- Slow to anger? Do I see Him as more patient with me than I usually am with myself?
- Abounding in love for me? Do I see Him as more attentive, affectionate and loving than I can imagine?
- Continually faithful? Do I believe that even when events around me are frustrating, disappointing or frightening that I can count on Him?
- Able to have a personal, intimate relationship with thousands at the same time?
- Ready and willing to forgive every wickedness, rebellion and sin in my life?
- So holy that He can never just ignore that which is broken in my life and in this world?
As we enter into this Advent season, how might the image of Jesus might help heal your gut image of God? Is there one of the lines above that especially something in your gut image of God needing transformation? How might God want to transform the image of Him that you hold in my heart and mind?
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