When you were a kid, did you ever wonder what God looked like? In my tradition, the “Old Grandpa in the Rocking Chair” was the default depiction of God. Grandfathers were considered to be good people, and so God was kindly, sedentary, white-bearded, and wise. God could be easily identified by his stereotypical old-guy characteristics.
That image of God is heresy because God is Totally Other. Making God into an old guy is a clever way for other old guys to control the theological dialogue, or to justify the way things are supposed to work. The Old Guy God image is not useful, either, because that God just sits around, telling stories and giving good advice with a smile. Hardly the God who could appeal to folks who are active, trying to be godly in their own ways.
There IS something to thinking about God as old, though. A different kind of old: A God who’s been around every tree. (Who also knows and loves every tree!) A God who can still jump into action with both feet and both hands. A God who’s as wise as a grandmother. A God whose presence is comforting but also insistent. A God who’s not looking down on you because you’re old! A God who’s connected to a lot of good people. A God you don’t mess with.
Nowadays, I don’t think of God as grandfather—or grandmother, either. The God I serve and praise has been around a long time—and will be moving around in people’s lives for a long time to come. As I get older, I take comfort from that fact—the eternal, timeless nature of a God who can transcend oldness and be powerful and useful right now, too.
And I still don’t know what God looks like….
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