Over the past several years, I’ve been asking myself what God looks like in one way or another… consciously or subconsciously… literally or figuratively.
I think, perhaps, he started as an elderly gentleman, heavily bearded, seated on a sectional couch made of clouds with built-in footrests and coolers in the armrests, of course. God was generally nice, but he did some really weird things in the beginning of the Bible that I didn’t know much about… I don’t know, Jesus seemed nice enough, and I guess he was God’s son.
This was my perception of God before I got to know God… It didn’t change much after I started to get to know God, but that’s what it was before, too.
God was also an American… or at least clearly pro-American. Because growing up in Hendersonville, Tennessee, just about everyone loved God. And they also loved America, because America stands for all the same things that God does… Liberty, Freedom, Justice for all… yeah, that all sounds good.
This all made sense to me. It was good, and God was simple, approachable, and familiar… You could even say he was a lot like me.
Like many Christians, I stopped here for a while to dig a trench and prepare for the liberal media to start chucking hand grenades.
It was an easily packaged-and-sold faith, and I really didn’t have to do anything too much different from what I was doing before. Just don’t swear, drink, smoke, or dance, and you won’t even need the guardrails on either side of the Straight and Narrow Way.
Me and Jesus were bowling with bumpers.
Fast-forward via musical interlude:
I love this song. Sometimes I listen to it on repeat to remind me that God is good, he doesn’t hate people like we hate people, and that he’s so far above and beyond our feeble devices of government, division, judgements, biases, and fighting that surely he must operate on different terms.
That’s my God today.
No longer an old man seated, half-asleep on a couch made of clouds.
No longer casting a ballot on election day.
No longer waving a flag on Independence Day.
No longer loving only the people I love.
No longer hating the people I hate.
No longer a mirror image of myself.
And you know what… I’m glad he’s not… Because I’m not that great, and I have no business ruling over his Kingdom (i.e. Bruce Almighty… Morgan Freeman is a way better God than Jim Carrey).
The box I had built for God was entirely too small.
I’m grateful for this, because worshipping a God who expects more of me is far more interesting than worshipping an omnipotent version of myself (a frightening thought indeed).
I find a deep sense of peace as well as a tremendous challenge in knowing that my God loves his other seven billion children just as much as he loves me. From the ones who praise his name to the ones who persecute them for doing so, from those with the greatest wealth to those with dwindling rations and numbered days, from young to old, from one race to another and every other in between, from one end of the planet to the other and then back again, our God is a God who loves furiously.
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
We learn to lean on the power of God rather than on powers and principalities, so that we may know a freedom that is far greater than the freedoms provided by whatever country we live in.
Freedom in grace.
Freedom in humility.
Freedom in peace.
Freedom in redemption.
Freedom in love.
The fact is, God lives in every nation. He speaks every language. He knows every heart…
And, all at once… he is pursuing all seven billion of them with each and every beat.
So, may we live deeper. May we dare to look beyond, so that our glimpses of the unseen will transform the seen. May our picture of you, God, grow every day to know more clearly who it is you are and, therefore, who you are calling us to be. May we choose an easier yoke and a lighter burden, even knowing that they may destroy our old selves in the process. May the unforced rhythms of your grace leave us different from when they found us. May they teach us to see through your eyes. May they teach us to love like you love. May your Kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
*Clearly this is a post that deserves more conversation than it offers. It is far from a comprehensive look at the relationship between American nationalism and the Christian faith. Therefore, if you’d like to figure out where I’m coming from, please let me know, because, I’m pretty easy to talk to… and I like good talks.
For just a bit more, see this follow-up post here.