Bridges & Pathways to Experiencing More of God: The Parent/Child Relationship
God has provided many bridges/pathways in our lives, both to help us humans experience God’s real presence, and to allow us to be more empowered by that presence. In the weeks ahead, I want to think out loud about a few of those bridges and pathways.
Have you ever thought about how much we can learn about both God and ourselves by the real-life metaphor God has created in the parent-child relationship? Remember—we are the analogy, not God. God created us with these relationships partly so God could talk to us and be understood. At our best, we don’t make up a God who is like us; God made us to be in the likeness and image of God. We are the “image,” and we are the “analogy.” But it’s a great, helpful analogy. (And by the way, you certainly do not have to be a parent to observe the power of this analogy.)
When I see how often a parent values a child extravagantly—far beyond anything the child is capable of “repaying”—I can get a glimpse of how God might truly value us humans even more than we can imagine being valued. When I see how often parents forgive their children for the hurt and pain they inflict on their parents’ lives (acknowledged and not acknowledged), I see that it is certainly possible that God loves his children enough to forgive us even when we cannot figure out why.
When I see parents who are willing to sacrifice greatly so that their children can have life, love, and fulfillment, I find it easier to believe that the God who created us might be able to love and care at least as much as we human parents are capable of loving and caring—probably quite a bit more!
When I see how willing a good parent is to accommodate herself to the level of understanding and capability her child currently has, I can better understand how the God of the universe might be willing to reveal God’s self at a very “compromised” level in order for us to understand the level of truth we are currently able to see and understand. This isn’t an evolution of the parent’s identity (nor of God’s), it is an accommodation to the thresholds of personality and historical development.
A few weeks ago, I watched two parents jump up and down with joy and excitement as their little girl took 2 steps and fell flat on her face. There was no response along the lines of, “What a klutz! Two steps and flat on your face.” Instead, the reaction was more like this: “Yeah, look at our little girl. She took 2 steps! Let’s celebrate.” Is it possible that God is at least as good hearted and joyful about the small steps his children take? Of course. He’d much rather focus on those small steps than on the splat that often accompanies our baby steps of growth.
And what if, like a good parent, God is not looking for a child who can “deserve” or earn all this love, but rather a child who will accept all of this love and enjoy it, gratefully?
Yes, I know some will say I am just “anthropomorphizing” God. I would claim that they have picked up the wrong end of the reality stick. Reality is that God has made us to “image” God when we are at our best. And, one way to see that is when we watch people who relate to children as good parents. Through those earthly relationships, God has given us a bridge/pathway for experiencing more of God.