Who is God?
Who are we?
Our image of
God determines how we pray and what we pray for. It determines not
only how we see God, but how we see ourselves.
of God is limited; God is beyond our human definition. Still, we
need to have an image of God to which we can relate somehow. For
many of us, our earliest image of God was as a person, especially
a father. This is a rich and biblical image, and inherent in God
as Father is our identity as children. However, this image can be
distorted if we think of a father as harsh, authoritarian, or judgmental.
If we assign these characteristics to God, then we become frightened
children--cowed, passive, and rule-bound in our relationship with
God. Images of lover, healer, mother can open up an understanding
of God who seeks, heals, nurtures, and protects us. Abstract images
of light, color, or love can free us from trying to make God into
a human being. German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote, "We
are shaped and fashioned by what we love." God is the things
that are life-giving, and in loving relationships. No single image
of God is complete for all that we need for all of our lives; this
is why the Bible presents so many metaphors for God. The images
which are most meaningful to us will shape who we become in Christian
Take 10 minutes or so early in the week to recall your earliest
image of God; write it down.
Through the week consider: Who was I in relationship to that image
of God? Do I have the same image now? How has it changed? Has my
relationship to God changed? What do I most long for from God?
Allow at least
15-20 minutes for the following exercise in "praying with color":
Find a piece
of blank paper and markers, colored pencils, or whatever colors
you have. Take five minutes and close your eyes, relax and calm
your thoughts. Think about how you have experienced God in the past
week. When you're ready, open your eyes and draw whatever colors
and shapes express that experience. Don't worry about your artistic
ability! Post the drawing somewhere you'll see it. If you can, share
what you felt with someone you trust.
has a different understanding of God than fledgling faith. In his
book, Becoming Adult, Becoming Christian: Adult Development and
Christian Faith, James Fowler identifies different stages of
faith and how they effect our knowledge and values.
The earliest experiences of a child and her primary caregivers,
which teach her to trust or mistrust the world. Doesn't differentiate
between her needs and herself.
Faith: Begins at around age two when a child begins to use language
and form images which hold together his worlds of meaning and wonder;
uses symbols to try to bring meaning to life and asks questions
about death. Values reassurance and guidance.
Faith: By school age (6 or 7), a child's thinking typically
becomes more linear and orderly. She can understand and tell a story
with beginning, middle, and end. Family and faith community are
defined by stories, and which stories they share. Rules and a sense
of fairness are important. Values concrete and literal explanations.
Faith: Typically begins in early adolescence when a child moves
from concrete objects and representations to abstractions and imaginative
thinking. He begins to draw together a "story of my stories"
to give meaning to life in general and to his own life in particular.
Values the faith he has been given by others.
Faith: Develops when individual experiences cause a person to
examine and make critical choices about her identity and faith.
What was once assumed about self and faith are re-examined. Beliefs,
values, and commitments become a matter of choice rather than uncritical
Faith: This usually happens after mid-life. The experience of
an adult living with the tension of who he is as well as who he
wants to be, caring for adolescent children and aging parents, coming
to terms with aging, experiencing the death of parents or peers.
Involves the integration of polarities-the "conjunction of
opposites." Deep commitment to own faith allows for genuine
openness to other points of view.
Faith: The rare individual who is so grounded in the source
of faith that his own causes, institutions, attachments, and possessions
are not needed to give life value. Value comes from total and pervasive
response to the radical love of God. Christian tradition has named
these people saints.
of God have been most meaningful to me in different stages of faith?
What images of God are most meaningful to me now? What do I long
for from God?
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