formation friday: God expanded

blog formation friday god expandedwhat comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

– a.w. tozer

i’m not sure i completely agree with this quote but it does make me think.  it also makes sense why so many of our distorted and jacked up images of God have gotten us into so much trouble!

i can’t remember if i wrote this here or somewhere else but i will always remember when i was at denver seminary and my spiritual formation group leader (who was awesome) challenged us by playing a song that reflected a female image of God.  it was a gregorian-chant-like piece & trust me, the entire group was royally ticked off by the end.  her challenge to us was that even though in typical evangelical circles the image of God as father is by far most prevalent, there are many people who have had damaging experiences with men that have robbed them of the ability to connect with God as father freely.  her take was that as pastors & ministry leaders & spiritual directors, we had better be aware of this reality.  i will always remember people’s reactions in the class, how angry they were at this suggestion that God could possibly be mother.

and i will always remember what it did for me–it expanded my view of God in a radical way.  this was in 2002, 10 years ago, and in my evangelical world it was the first time anyone openly challenged me to consider expanding my view of God.

since then, you all know, it’s gotten bigger and bigger and bigger.

i personally don’t have trouble relating to God as father as much anymore although my reflex is still to make a connection with my earthly father (who is a dear person but an alcoholic and not able to be the kind of dad that is involved in my life the way i longed for for many years).  with healing & time & God’s help some of that has unhooked and i don’t blame God or have him conformed to my dad’s image in those same ways.  in other words, my reflex is improving.  i might go there out of instinct and reflex, but i don’t stay there as long as i used to.  (to me, that’s a definition of healing: when the time that we unnecessarily stay in crappy places gets shorter and shorter).

several years ago my spiritual director had me practice something that was really hard for me to do with God–experiencing God as a friend.  a fun friend.  someone i wanted to just hang out with & laugh with & be with. i have heard all of the cookie cutter answers for years about “Jesus is your friend” but the truth is that i never related to him like that because i also heard a lot of “Jesus wants you to be like this or be like that” and most of my friends didn’t expect me to be different all the time but loved me just the way i was.

my spiritual director had me center on expanding my view of God to faithful, fun friend.  she encouraged me to read rumi & hafiz & turn my heart and mind toward laughter and lightness instead of heavy spiritual lifting all of the time. i can’t say it magically shifted everything, but i can say that it opened me up to a new side of God that needed opening.  i sometimes tell people who are struggling with deconstruction and losing-all-they-once-held-dear to consider one aspect of God they either still can connect to or want to connect to and let that be enough.

even beginning to change language can open new doors.

i know many of you are expanding your view of God after trying to fit his big butt in a box for far too long (i love that cartoon below by my friend david hayward). and i know many others of you are beginning to consider new ways of connecting with God that might feel scary.

regardless of where you are at, here are a few processing/prayer prompts to consider when it comes to expanding our view of God:

i used to think God was only….

and this view helped me….

now, things are changing & i’m more open to the possibility that maybe God is…

this expanded view helps me…

an aspect of God i’m exploring more of this season is….(just a few possibilities, there are so many others, all reflected in scripture in different ways:  God as Father, God as Mother, God as Friend, God as Brother, God as Protector, God as Nurturer, God as Provider, God as Shepherd, God as Wisdom, God as Jesus, God as Spirit…)

when i say that out loud i hear a voice in my head that says...(this question will only make sense for people who have been taught that only certain images of God are okay).

but i’m going to be brave and open to new possibilities because….

God, help me know you more as _______.  i really want to….

i’d love to hear some of your responses.  may we find God in all kinds of new and brave and healing and wonderful ways in the months & years to come.  have a great weekend!  peace, kathy

* * * * *

how many of you are tired of doing this?  thanks, david hayward.  you rock.  (i’ve got an interview with him coming next week!)

other formation friday posts if you’re new here and want to check them out:

 

 

 

 

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

9 Comments

  • Thank you for this push to keep stretching and expanding my view of God. It reminds me of when I read “The Shack” several years ago. Whatever critique one may have about the writing or theology, it is a book that pushed me to view God differently than I ever had before. And with that, it expanded and deepened my faith in powerful ways. I haven’t consciously returned to my need to do that in quite awhile. I plan to do these prayer prompts. Thank you so much for providing them.

    Reply
    • thanks stephanie for reading & sharing. it is so true, writing form aside, it stirred the pot in some really important ways and expanded so many people’s views of God. i loved the conversation we had related to it (we did a big conversation on it one night at our wednesday house of refuge) and just how healing it was for so many to consider a new image of God from the distorted one that had robbed a lot of life and hope and freedom.

      Reply
  • That is very interesting about the perception of God as a woman and also in light of the comment on “The Shack”. I recall a film recently also where Whoopie Goldberg was portrayed as a woman. I’m hearing the convincing argument for that. I wonder also about the validity as some would claim of leaving things there because people cannot relate to a male figure as God. Surely God has a way of healing so that this would be possible?

    I can relate personally also to having difficulty with a father figure. But then taking the courage to step out into that – surrendering any fear and taking the courage to face God as father as being a strengthening and freeing thing. To my surprise – God as father is kinder to me than I am to myself!

    I don’t have a church upbringing so the Jesus wants you to be “this or that” has never been an issue for me. Rather the issue being with difficulties I have had with people who try to put that kind of burden on me which Jesus never intended, leading to issues with church culture but not Jesus. Interesting that as this post came out I am studying Jesus’ humour and seeidn the post here with a spiritual director talking about God as a fun friend. Prophetically it was spoken over me a year and a half ago that god wanted to have fun with me. The very day I had just started on a stand up comedy workshop. Have done 6 gigs so far and hoping to do more!

    Have found techniques with mindfulness helpful with inviting a visitor with laughter. whether that visitor is fear, a memory etc and healthy coping methods with that. Utlimately we know Jesus’ humour in the face of adversity with any fear exmplified by “death where is your sting”. The perfect love that casts out fear? Someteimes easier to say thand do thought I admit.

    Reply
    • love that you are going for it on the stand up comedy thing. that is so brave. love hearing that. thanks for sharing more of your story, too. i am so glad you are here.

      Reply
  • The cartoon reminds me of a Tony Campolo story Kathy. Tony had some kind of encounter where he saw God act in a specific way, an answer to prayer by a group of people i believe. He shared this with one of his teacher colleagues and they said, Sorry Tony but my theology doesn’t permit thia. Tony blinked and replied well maybe God is bigger than your theology!!!!
    I always like your prayer samples you give Kathy. Always challenging wondering about them.
    O God, I have viewed You as being focused on my failures,weaknesses and shortcomingsin living out being a good and faithful servant. I want to view You as letting me experience Your love and peace and knowing You accept me always, no matter how many times i fall down and stumble. Thank You for bein g greater than I can ever ask or imagine.
    For your amusement my funny friend- Kathy gotr style Kathy got class Kathy leads and ministers and totally kicks………booty!!!! LOL Hopefully that made you smile and giggle!!!

    Reply
  • Thanks so much Kathy….
    i used to think God was ….scary, mean, strict
    and this view helped me…. stay guilty all the time about everything
    now, things are changing & i’m more open to the possibility that God is… loving, caring, kind, compassionate, sad when i’m sad, joyful when i trust Him
    this expanded view helps me… relax, have more joy, love myself and others
    an aspect of God i’m exploring more of this season is… God as my friend
    when i say that out loud i hear a voice in my head that says… how can God be my friend if He’s God
    but i’m going to be brave and open to new possibilities because…. God is love
    God, help me know you more as ….so loving….. i really want to….live in trusting faith 100% everyday : )

    Reply

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