The idea of imagining God makes some people nervous, as if we are all going to be wandering off into the wilderness, subjectively inventing and defining God, and knowing the nature of people, likely creating and reinventing Him in our own image.
I think those fears are somewhat misplaced. A far more prevalent problem is how we try to shrink Him down, put Him in a box, and only perceive one facet of His nature. This time of year is good example, we have the Babe in the manager, the Lamb, and all but forgotten is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the warrior now seated in victory at the right hand of the Father.
God is a big God, bigger even then our ability to conceive of Him properly. He cannot simply be digested intellectually or felt emotionally. We must use all of our parts to build a relationship with Him, including our imaginations. Often our ability to imagine takes us places where our heart and our reason cannot go.
Why might one invest in imagining God? Relationship. We are building a relationship with our Creator and so coming to understand His nature helps us to build intimacy and to become pleasing to Him. It’s very difficult, if not darn near impossible, to be pleasing to someone if you don’t know have some idea of who they are, what makes their heart sing.
Getting to know God is also just plain delightful and full of surprises and endless excitement. I can place this in the context of marriage and say that discovering something new about someone is just like unwrapping a gift or finding a buried treasure.
I’ve been married for some time and yet still I discover new things about hubby that cause me to say, “Whoah, I never really knew you!” The past few years I have uncovered hubby’s love of music, his fondness for lyrics, and how poetic he can be. I never knew that because we had four teen agers and much of our life together has been spent yelling, “Turn that down! That’s awful! Kill it with fire!”
When hubby and I got together what we valued the most was silence, pure and golden silence, and so I had no idea he actually enjoys music and words and the ideas and emotions they convey. I really thought he hated it.
I often empathize with God, attempting to communicate with us, to convey ideas that are just too big for our brains to conceive of. One of the miracles of the bible is just how masterfully He manages to do this. There are many metaphors in the bible, word pictures, and if we don’t grasp one, they will be repeated in another one, in a different way.
Mathew 23:37 says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”
In Psalms 91:4 we find His feathers again, “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.”
Clearly God is not a chicken, but the protective nature of God comes through loud and clear in those passages. Just as a hen would pull her chicks under her wings for warmth, protection, shelter, encasing them in the softness of her feathers, God desires to do the same for His chicks.
Of course God is not literally and simply a chicken or a grape-vine or an earthly father, or a good husband to His church, or the lover of our souls. He is all those things… but so much more.
To help us with our imaginings we have also been given the many names of God, Jehovah Jireh, the Lord will provide, Jehovah Shalom, the Lord is peace. The Lamb, the Lion, the Good Father, the steadfast Husband…married to Gomer.
We have the life and example of Jesus Christ to help shape our perceptions and imaginations, too. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In Jesus Christ we have God in the flesh, in human form, to help guide and lead our understanding.
In the Song of Songs 2:16 she sings, “My beloved is mine and I am his; he browses among the lilies. Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, turn, my beloved, and be like a gazelle
or like a young stag on the rugged hills.”
Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and let the music speak to you.