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I can't see God

I can’t see God

i can't see god cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
(Click on image to shop!)

I was struck yesterday while I was preparing my cartoon on the death of Brennan Manning that he called Jesus “the human face of God”. More of this thoughts deserve to be mentioned here:

“To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side, I learn who I am.”


“When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.”

In the cartoon above we see the man investigating the minutia through a microscope. He can’t see God. Then we see the man looking through a telescope at the vast universe. He can’t see God. Then we see the man studying exploring holy books. He can’t see God. Then we see Christ on the cross desperate. He can’t see God. This is reality. I’m not joking. Every honest person knows this.

I posted what I thought would be a simple statement on my Facebook page yesterday. I said:

“One of the greatest equalizers is that not one of us has seen God.”

Some of the responses I received made me want to throw my hands up in the air in despair. Some people claim to have seen God or know somebody who has or read about someone who did. Others say that we see God every day in the small things if we have spiritual eyes to see. Others said there is no God to see anyway. Ah, the human mind’s capacity to believe whatever it needs to believe! I talk with people all the time who defend the absolute inerrancy of Scripture where it says, “No one has seen God and lived”, but they claim they’ve seen God or that others have. I know many people who claim to have to seen God and even stood before him in heaven and received orders. Yet here they are walking around as alive as ever. We have no problem living with cognitive dissonance.

We are desperate. The incredible diversity of responses made me realize that people are desperate to see God or desperate to believe he can be seen. I claim we are all like Christ on the cross. We all suffer. We can achieve some Buddhist detachment from our suffering. But the suffering is there. It pervades the world. Honest people know this. And in the midst of this we cry out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

But I don’t believe that’s the end of it. There’s a bigger picture. It sort of reminds me of Paul’s idea that we may not see but we are seen. The greater story is that we are embraced in the All-Knowing and All-Seeing. The greatest of these is love. Love remains. I love helping people learn how to live honestly and authentically in this Mystery.

At The Lasting Supper this evening, we’re going to have a Potluck Hangout, a video conference, where we are going to talk about belief. Those who consider themselves on the spectrum of belief are going to share their journeys of faith with us. I can’t wait! I invite you to join us.

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  • Samuel Post

    I’m glad you got in touch with your compassion for people again. At least perhaps, if you haven’t seen God you are still seeking, or groping or questing or trekking or whatever. The anthropomorphism of deity is a coin with two sides.

  • Maybe we can;’t physically “see God”, but God has revealed Himself to us in Christ Jesus. And Christ Jesus comes to us in His Word and in the Supper. And in the consolation of believers, one to another.

    On the cross, Jesus took upon himself, our lostness, our blindness, our sin.

    But God did not forsake him, but answered his prayer from the cross to forgive us and then raised him 3 days later as the affirmation of that answered prayer.

    So, we’ve got that going for us…which is nice.

  • Wow, use “God” enough like that, and we can see the word’s uselessness.

    I call Christianity and a few other religions, “Beliefisms” — once we start to understand the nature of our minds and of beliefs, we start to see how silly banking on the “right belief” truly is — especially in religion where nothing is testable. Enjoy your PotLuck

  • Wow, use “God” enough like that, and we can see the word’s uselessness.

    I call Christianity (Paul’s version, that is) and a few other religions, “Beliefisms” — once we start to understand the nature of our minds and of beliefs, we start to see how silly banking on the “right belief” truly is — especially in religion where nothing is testable. Enjoy your PotLuck

  • Carol

    Do you think that perhaps it is because we are “made in the image of God” that we find it so hard to “see/know” ourselves?

    One of my favorite poems is Dietrich Bonhoeffers’s “Who am I?”:

    Who Am I?

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote “Who Am I” just one month before he was executed. This is an English translation of the famous text:

    Who am I? They often tell me I would step from my cell’s confinement calmly, cheerfully, firmly, like a squire from his country-house.

    Who am I? They often tell me I would talk to my warden freely and friendly and clearly, as though it were mine to command.

    Who am I? They also tell me I would bear the days of misfortune equably, smilingly, proudly, like one accustomed to win.

    Am I then really all that which other men tell of, or am I only what I know of myself, restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage, struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat, yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds, thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness, trembling with anger at despotisms and petty humiliation, tossing in expectation of great events, powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance, weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making, faint and ready to say farewell to it all.

    Who am I? This or the other? Am I one person today, and tomorrow another? Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others, and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling? Or is something within me still like a beaten army, fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

    Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

    Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine.

    And also this one:

    And did you get what
    you wanted from this life, even so?
    I did.
    And what did you want?
    To call myself beloved, to feel myself
    beloved on the earth.
    ~Raymond Carver, “Late Fragment”

  • Maybe it is just because we made God.
    Which shows that we don’t understand ourselves.
    And thus, in a double-folded irony, we don’t understand God.

    (sorry, no famous quotes)

  • Replace the word “God” with “Gobblesnap” or “Snockertrop” or any other nonsense and the meaning and value of all the questions become much more clear.

  • Patty

    If I am to be very honest, I will admit I don’t see God despite being able to see God’s handiwork in the elegance of mathematics, funny as that may sound. But what I do believe is that I am walking in complete darkness, arms outstretched in anxiety for fear of what might lie ahead, eyes closed and blind to the darkness which enfolds me. It’s not a ‘bad’ darkness, it’s the darkness of my unknowing while being embraced and permeated. What I have to do is let my arms hang loose and take Kierkegaard’s leap of faith, continuing through the darkness with a measure of assurance.

  • Carol

    Sabio, and maybe it is a little bit of both.

    Famous quotes:

    If God created man in his image, we have more than reciprocated. –Voltaire

    You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do. ~Anne Lamott

    And this one which is not on topic, but may explain why I love Voltair:

    “Now, now my good man, this is no time for making enemies.” –Voltaire (1694-1778) on his deathbed in response to a priest asking that he renounce Satan

  • Al Cruise

    Very good , another part to this which I think goes even deeper is that nobody really knows what happens after we die. We don’t really know were those who died are, in the way we can know about each other when were alive on earth. We need to admit this. We are all in the same boat on this, rich, poor, the famous , the outcast, the educated and the non- educated. Yes, Love remains, there is no denying the effect of it.

  • There is a lot about God that was pre-Christ verses post Christ – including ‘seeing’ Them. When Philip burst out “Show us the Father and that’s enough’ Jesus pointed to Himself and said “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.” I both agree and disagree with David. I think there are a lot of things about God that are subjective – not that He is, but we are. For most of us that have traveled with Him for any length of time, we can attest that the God we ‘saw’ twenty years ago is probably not the God we ‘see’ to day (or at least hope so). In my own life what God looks like is changing daily and subjectively. Ten years ago He was ‘judge’ with long white hair. Now he wears khaki’s, floppy’s, faded blue T-shirts with crew-cut bleach blonde hair. The first came out of a legalistic perception, the second love and grace. Can hardly wait to ‘see’ what He looks like tomorrow.

  • Kris

    You will find this story amusing.

    I am so sick of Jesus’ death and resurrection being the only thing that give anyone hope. What about his ministry-healing people, feeding them, challenging the status quo….He did so much in those three years to change people’s lives. But we are so afraid of death and want/need to believe we will be raised from the dead that we can only focus on that.

    What about our relationship with others as Christians, particularly those are not Christian or those we don’t perceive as “Christian enough”? Do we see God or Jesus in the homeless guy panhandling and the teen mom on welfare? How do we treat these people and how would Jesus want us to treat those people? Think about the final judgment in Matthew 25 Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’ We need stop looking for God in tacos and gold fish and be aware that he is among us in some unexpected ways.

  • Great thoughts, David.

    I actually spoke on this very topic of God’s ‘hiddenness’ a week ago ( What struck me was that when Jesus appeared to to Mary magdalene, Cleopas on the way to Emmaus, Peter on the lake and Thomas in his doubt, not one of them instantly recognised him. Jesus comes to us incognito. It’s only when he revealed something of his personality, through a word, and action, or by sharing something only he could know, where their eyes opened to recognise who he was.

    This gives a whole knew spin on the idea of ‘seeing’ God. We recognise him most by understanding his nature and personality at work in our lives.