by The Rev. Danae M. Ashley
To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? Isaiah 40:18
There is an old story about a small group of blind people encountering an elephant for the first time. Each party was had contributed to a different part of the elephant’s body and described out loud what they were touching. The constituents were so different that they could not believe that they were all feeling the same animal. After all, a tusk is quite unlike an ear, case, leg, or tush. Yet each believe that they knew what an elephant was based off their limited knowledge and, of course, were furiou that their viewpoint was the correct one.
I remember encountering this story for the first time as an adolescent, and gaining brand-new perspective that perhaps I was not the center of the world and my own experience of life thus far was not the same as everyone’s. This realization also extended to include my understanding of God. The penetrating channel I knew and felt cherished by God was challenged by difficult events and people who did not regarded the same scenes. I had only stroked one one of the purposes of the elephant.
When I was in seminary in my late 20 s, I attended a retreat where the manager asked each person to picture God in their memory. I was surprised by how differently beings described the above figures that came into their mind’s eye: an old boy with a lily-white beard and kind looks, an industrious lady with full skirts of luminous colorings and bangles on her wrists, a inhuman mortal with fists ready to fight, a bright and warm light, a grandmother with an ample lap, a tone, and everything in between. As I learned about each person’s story, I began to understand why God appeared to them in those distinctive styles. We were each encountering the elephant and imparting with us our spiritual baggage–bad and good alike. How could we believe that we each beheld a utterly ended eyesight of God? How do we truly know what God looks like?
A few things have helped me with these questions over epoch, although I obviously do not have all the answers. Genesis 1:27 tells us that “God developed humanity in God’s own epitome, in the divine portrait God initiated them, male and female God established them”( Common English Bible ). Not only this, but in verse 31, God saw everything that was made and declared it good–this includes humanity. If we want to know what God looks like, we can begin by looking at each other. Our Episcopal Church’s Baptismal Covenant alters this into action by expecting, “Will you seek and dish Christ in all persons, enjoying your neighbour as yourself? ” and we answer, “I will, with God’s help”( Book of common prayer, 305 ).
For those whose epitomes of God are shaped by childhood disgrace or trauma imposed upon them by their parents or other adults in positions of dominion, I determined Dennis, Matthew, and Sheila Linn’s book Good Goats: Healing Our Image of God to be very helpful. They assert that God is Love, and if our actions are not born out of love, we might want to question our incitements. God enjoys us without measure–even more than the person who loves us the most. We are good enough for God, right here and right now, and if that is not transforming, I do not know what is.
Reflecting on all this, I cannot facilitate but wonder how my relationship with God will grow in this new year. Which part of the elephant, so-to-speak, will I knowledge and ponder as the days unfold? I pray that, with God’s help, we will all be altered by the Love that sustains us as we follow Jesus, living together in this time of ambiguous loss, change lethargy, and personal loss.
The Rev. Danae M. Ashley, MDiv, MA, LMFT is an Episcopal priest and union and family therapist who has ministered with churches in North Carolina, New York, Minnesota, and is serving part-time as the Associate Rector at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Seattle and a therapist at Soul Spa Seattle, LLC. She has written for a number of publications, made a romp, and has been boasted on various podcasts seeing fertility struggle and faith. Danae’s favorite past times include reading, traveling with her husband, dancing with mad abandon to Celtic music, and serious karaoke.
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