Reflections by Jerry Webber

Monday, May 16, 2011

Imaging the God Who Is Like Me

These words, the voice of God in Psalm 50, caught my eye:

These things you have done and I kept still,
and you thought that I am like you. (Ps. 50:21)

Because I spend quite a bit of time in the Hebrew Psalms, I notice the tendency of pray-ers to identify with God. It happens often in the Psalms. And it happens often in me and others.

My enemies must be God's enemies.

The things that anger me must anger God.

When I am slighted or treated unfairly, God has been slighted.

I seem always to take myself and my outlook as the point of reference around which God orbits.

This seems to be a fundamental human predisposition, to reduce God to my emotions, my limitations, and my potentialities. Though created in God's image, we live as if God were shaped to our image. There is something in the human condition that makes me want to take the limits of my vision for the limits of the world, or the limits of reality.

In short, this thinking reflects the human tendency to see myself at the center, while everything and everyone else -- including God -- floats at the periphery.

"You thought that I am like you," God said. Rather than live into the largeness of God, we shrink God to our size.

Really, it's a ludicrous notion . . . the God of the cosmos, reduced to fit into my pocket.

The spiritual life, as I have come to understand it, is basically a continual invitation into the largeness of God. The expansiveness of God stretches across all that is real and true, and encompasses every aspect of life without exception. Certainly, a small God feels safer, more manageable and controlled. But even when God became one of us -- in Jesus -- he gave up safety and manageability for a radical life of love and generosity.

Jesus lived large . . . expansive. He pressed the borders and explored the great landscape of God.

As Jesus entered into this largeness and proclaimed that expansiveness to others, he called it the kingdom of God.

As for me, I find it much easier to bend God to my liking than to engage the difficult work of entering into God's expansiveness. It's easier to live small, not as demanding. I basically don't have to change a thing.

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