Mainline Protestant Channel
What Does God Really Look Like?
The answer surprised me, as I listened from what I've been learning. My religious tradition wrestles with images, both for their power in opening human hearts to God in practice and for their hindrance of being opened to that same Presence whom we cannot see, for some reason. I envy Roman Catholics sometimes for their religious imagination of God's face through the centuries. My own strand of Christianity (Reformed Protestant) whitewashed and refused significance to such images. We moved artistic energies into the cerebral realms, specializing in argumentation, passion, devotion.
Images of God open many in prayer; images of God hinder others, hiding the ineffable One in an unbearably multiple many. So my answer surprised me. What does God really look like? We must ask the one who is asking. There is value in looking into the eyes of an image of my Teacher, whom I confess as both human and divine: the face of Jesus.
More significantly, though, God's face appears in the dear Hasidic friend who offers me tea and compassionate wisdom from his own steeping in rabbinic traditions. I see the Holy One just as clearly in the Muslim woman who could not contain her delight and hugged me when I expressed my first sense of sacred Presence while praying under a head-covering.
The image of God to which you surrender in moments of greatest trembling will tell you about who you are, how God may be found within your wisdom traditions, and where you may meet God . . . anew. If desired.
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Lisa M. Hess, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Practical Theology and Contextual Ministries at United Theological Seminary.