By Vinita, based on Here’s My Heart, Here’s My Hand: Living Fully in Friendship with God.
For those of you trying out our Weekend Reflection, feel free to post your response. This past weekend, I encouraged you to practice gratitude by looking at the past, imagining the future, and the present. How was that experience?
“The experience of God that we have cannot be fully captured by imaginative language such as Father, Mother, Lover, Friend. Yet we address the Mystery as “You,” and we feel toward this You as we feel toward the best father, mother, lover, we could ever imagine. Indeed, because interpersonal relationships are what make us human and people at all, we must use such metaphorical language taken from our highest development to speak of the encounter with God” (p. 138).
As a writer and speaker, I struggle with how to name God. There’s the issue of personal pronouns: he, she, it. None of them really work, do they? God transcends gender, includes every gender. God is mystery we cannot name; yet God is definitely not an “it.” If I become too obsessed with the problem of naming God “correctly,” I’ll just omit God from my conversation completely.
Worst of all, if I trip up on the un-nameable quality of God, I might be tempted to stop praying altogether. After all, do I pray, “Lord . . .” “Almighty God . . .” “Jesus . . .” “Holy Spirit . . .” “Master of the Universe . . .” ? When I pray, do I picture male, female, a cloud of dark smoke, a searing light?
The answer is probably, “all the above.” My experience of God can be the heavenly father Jesus described, or the motherly care referred to by Jesus and the psalmist. Some days, God is indeed a vapor that enters my life and leaves without announcement or warning. Other days God is the quiet thought at the depth of me—the thought I know is true and wise and full of love.
Most important, God is always You. Prayer is the connection between me the person and God the One who relates to me as me. Sometimes there really is no name that seems to work. But that’s all right. You don’t need a name to say, “Thank you.” You don’t even need a name to say, “Please help.”
A Spiritual Adventure for the Week
Try to use a variety of names for God this week. In addition to “Father,” try “Mother.” In addition to “Lord” or “Savior,” try “Brother” and “Friend.”
Imagine God as cloud, light, smoke, water, wind, and use one or more of those images in your prayer time. You might be surprised at how just these slight adjustments in your approach can broaden and deepen your experience of prayer.