A Different Kind of God


For those of us who grew up in faith traditions that espoused the idea that God is a ticked-off old white dude, high above somewhere "up there" on a white throne, handing out heaping helpings of judgment and damnation for those who cross him, it's hard to imagine something different, even when we come to know better. 

Trust me on this; I know from experience how hard this is to do, and I've been teaching and preaching about a different image of God for decades.  

I often find myself reverting to that old image of God when things in my life aren't going as I think they should.  I know I'm not alone.  

When hardships come, or calamity falls, many of us wonder if we just might have done something to offend that old God to cause them.  

I've written here before that when we hold on to that old image of God, we are tacitly embracing a transactional form of faith where God's grace is only available if we toe the line and the line keeps moving. 

This is why the following quote from Frederick Buechner is so significant to me, and I hope it's meaningful to you, too. Buechner imagines the voice of God speaking to those of us who have held on to that transactional God for too long: 

"Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are, because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It's for you I created the universe. I love you." 

A friend sent me a devotional that included this quote I had read before but needed to reread.  I love this because it speaks directly to an image of God that is nothing like the old transactional one many of us struggle to shake. 

The God described in this Buechner quote is not a God who is far away, high in some holy temple with a scowl on his face and judgment on his mind. 

The God of Buechner's quote is a God who is near.  This God looks upon us with love, acknowledging that we will go through hard times, none of which were caused by God.  

This God has purposes for us that are glorious and wonderful, and this God invites us to step more fully into them without fear of messing up or falling short of them. 

I wonder how often people fall away from faith because they can't reconcile themselves with the image of the old God they were handed when they were young.  I know that I very nearly did. 

But at just the right time, I was introduced to the God of Buechner's quote, and it brought me back to faith.  I never knew such a God existed, and the idea that there was such a God literally rescued me from years of bitterness and anger.  

Maybe you were handed that old image of God a long time ago, and you still find yourself feeling like that image is peering over your shoulder, telling you that you aren't good enough. 

If that is the case, I want you to take that quote from Buechner and transfer it to a notecard or a sign and hang it somewhere where you will see it continuously as a reminder.  

May you find grace in being reminded of God's true nature of love.  May you find peace in knowing that you are enough and you are loved.  

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  


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