My Gut Image of God

It probably makes sense that I’ve been thinking about Christ in this Christmas season. At least I know that’s supposed to be the deal! I was remembering the other day to a season of deep renewal in my life and in the college community I shepherded in the early 90s. I remember at that time being particularly moved by God’s own description of Himself to Moses:

“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7 NIV)

As I reflect on the Lord’s proclamation, I realize that there is always at least some distance between my theological or doctrinal image of God and my functional or gut image of God. What image of God do I teach, preach or share in evangelism? How have the scriptures shaped that image? Now what about the image of God implied in the way I pray? How deeply do I trust that God is–

  • Compassionate? Do I believe that He feels and cares about what burdens me, worries me, concerns me?
  • Gracious? Do I believe that He loves to be generous with me?
  • Slow to anger? Do I see Him as more patient with me than I usually am with myself?
  • Overflowing with care and concern for me? (Abounding in love). Do I see Him as more loving than I can imagine (or less)?
  • Continually reliable? Do I believe that even when events around me are frustrating, disappointing or frightening that I can count on Him?
  • Able to have a personal, intimate relationship with thousands at the same time?
  • Ready to forgive every wickedness, rebellion and sin in my life?
  • So holy that He can never just ignore unholiness?

In this Christmas season, perhaps it would be good to pray along these lines a bit. How does God want to transform the image of Him that I hold in my heart? How might Christ be more fully formed in me?

About these ads

3 thoughts on “My Gut Image of God

  1. Hey Alan,

    That part of the scripture you quoted that follows the little word “Yet” has troubled me. I can imagine that there are any number of “explanations” that make some sense, but it always seems like I’m forcing a plain statement into something I want it to be. God said this about Himself. That’s as plain as can be. Troubling…

    Yet, in my experience, this is true. But (thank God) it’s not what I thought.

    I am a recovering Alcoholic. My grandfather was an alcoholic, my dad an enabler, my mom an alcoholic. My older sister died the grisly death of esophageal hemorrhage (classic alcoholic death – the same death as an aunt she was named after). One of my sons has identified as an alcoholic and currently is on the “marijuana maintenance program.” My other son is functioning quite well, but for some odd reason, I always smell alcohol on his breath.

    So, there it is – 4 generations.

    But, here’s the part that I didn’t (couldn’t) understand: I consider myself to be blessed beyond what I ever expected and lucky to be an alcoholic. Sounds crazy, right?

    For me, to drink is to die. I cannot drink like a normal person ever again. I am dead to drinking. I am like a man who has lost his legs; I will never grow new ones. I will never be cured of alcoholism. What I have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of my spiritual condition. I have do this everyday. Nothing else works. Promises, oaths, jails or doctors warnings cannot help me. Only God can do for me what I cannot do for myself directly.

    Those are the only 2 choices for me and many in my family. Drink and die (which is usually preceded by divorce, bankruptcy, jail, hospitals and insane asylums) or keep in fit spiritual condition. For me and mom that means that I have the privilege of belonging to a fellowship whose only requirement is a desire to stop drinking. What I witness there daily are men and women who know God’s address: the end of their rope. Some go back to drinking and some die out there. Most come back and give witness to the fact that they are alcoholic and only God can save them and the way He does that is by giving them a fellowship of other alcoholics who encourage each other to work a spiritual program of recovery.

    I have a front row seat and I’m in on it as well. What I get to see is predictable, reoccurring life change. I can’t see God, but I get to see evidence of His personal presence every day.

    So, back to God’s punishment on 4 generations. It’s true, but it’s not what I thought. Praise the one and only Higher Power of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and His son, Jesus. I thank God that he raised up a man, Bill W., to speak plainly about my “punishment.”

    How great is our God?

  2. Pingback: Looking Back: My Gut Image of God « Alan Fadling: Notes from my Unhurried Journey

Comments are closed.