Saturday, 5 October 2013

What Does God Look Like?

(Written on November 10, 2012)

I once had someone ask me, "when you close your eyes to pray to God, what do you see?"  In other words, how do I see God?

I have to admit, sometimes I see that stereotypical image of Jesus.  You know, that one with Jesus as having a well trimmed beard on a completely peaceful face.  Somehow the image includes the white and red robe.  Yet, you and I both know that this probably isn't what Jesus looked like exactly.

Often when I pray, I don't see anything further than the words I'm speaking.

In Revelation 5:6 Jesus is described as a Lamb that had just been slain.  This is a very astounding contrast from the image presented of Jesus earlier in Revelation:

Revelation 1:13-16 (NIV) - and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.  The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.  His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.  In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

When God the Father is described, there isn't much detail.  Revelation 4:3,5 depicts a vague picture of one with "the appearance of jasper and ruby" which emitted "rumblings and peals of thunder."

In church we sing about God's beauty.  Is it hard for some people to sing not knowing what God looks like?  I'll come back to this in a bit.

If you read my article on emotions, you'll know that I believe God chooses to display emotions because he wants to be in relationship with us.  I also believe that this is the reason that he takes on a form to bass by Moses in Exodus 34 (although he doesn't let Moses see his face).  As you recall, God also is depicted as "walking in the garden in the cool of the day" (Genesis 3:8) in the Garden of Eden.  He wants to be in relationship with us.

God is a trinity, something that makes it harder to think of a singular image for God.

The way I see it, if God had decided to take on a physical form in a way that displayed even the smallest portion of his splendor, and let us have a consistent picture of him available, one of two things would likely happen.  One, we would be so in awe by him that everything in his creation would look ugly by comparison.  Two, we would idolize that which he looks most like in this picture.  We would have for ourselves an image to worship instead of a God to worship, a God who is too big to be constrained to a single insignificant physical form.  I see this happening because mankind has such an affinity for focusing on the physical.  However, God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

We all want to see God.  Yet it is the intangible that holds the greatest beauty.  A husband's love for his wife is more beautiful than a ruby.  A diamond pales in glory compared to a random act of kindness to a stranger.

In a sense, God gives us the physical beauty of the things around us to be the smallest example of what true beauty is:  something that is pleasing to God's eyes.

When I think of the beauty of God, I think of the magnificence of his act of creating the universe simply by speaking a few words; I think of the vast amount of love it took for him to die for us:  us, who have no beauty in and of ourselves; I think of the faithfulness he has shown in always being there for us.   Everything that I have that is good comes from him.

Because I am human and have an easier time appreciating the physical, quite often I find myself being amazed by the beauty of God simply through the brilliant art of his creation (eg. a colourful sunrise/sunset or the majestic mountains).  I make the pronouncement that God is beautiful without actually seeing God.

When I sing of the beauty of God, as hard as it is without a physical image, so is it incredibly easy, for humans are also able to appreciate the beauty beyond the physical surface.

What does God look like?  Something beautiful beyond comprehension.  So therefore let's take things that are beautiful and not worship them, but worship God out of appreciation for them.

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