God created human beings after God’s own image, and we have returned the compliment, so to speak, creating God after our image ―Richard Rohr
We have created God. This will not come as a surprise if you look at the religious wars and people trying to protect God because he cannot protect Himself; fight for God because he cannot fight for Himself. We have put words in God’s mouth, told Him what to do and even planned God’s future for God. Some moved God away from the judgement seat and have sat there themselves; acquitting and condemning the condemnable. We have attributed to God the likeness of our impatience and unforgiveness.
Unfortunately, most of our image about God is religiously founded. As children, many people that grew up in the 70s and below thought of God as an old man with cane ready to whip people at every fall. Like Adam and Eve, people do hide themselves, afraid of the nakedness of their limitations and failures. It was taken that to be righteous amounts to being loved by God and God hate everyone not in the church or those struggling with life’s misery. Others, even till now, are caught up with religious denomination wars, deciding which church God is present and which church God is absent. It appears as if God cannot hear my prayer in my room or in the church except I go to a prayer ground and shout on top of my voice, like Elijah told the prophets of Baal to do in other for Baal to hear them (1Kg 18:27)
God has not become what we think he is. He has not changed his ways just because we want him to. That we are created in God’s image means that there is something of God present within us and around us. To identify God in everything and everywhere is to believe in what God is. He cannot be pocketed or exempted in anything. Like St Vincent Pallotti said “God in all things, all things in God, forevermore’’. No doubt why Christ warned in the Gospel that people will tell you that God is here or there (Mk 13:21-23). Pope Francis, in Laudate Si, emphasized the thoughts of St Francis of Assisi who invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. To think that God cannot be in a place of evil is to believe that evil can stain God. If God can be stained by evil then he is limited. This was why the Pharisees wondered why Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. Christ is not afraid of evil and sin. It is He who is like us in all things but Sin. Because nothing that God created is unclean (Acts 10:15).
Sometimes people say that they are searching for God or that they have come back to God and Jesus would answer ‘have I been with you all along and you still do not know me’ (Jn 14:9). Can one search for breeze? God is the one in search for us, so to speak. He is in search of our attention; our turning into our hearts to feel his presence. So when we come back to God, we come back to ourselves. Like the Gospel says that the Prodigal Son came back to himself (Lk 15:17) and discovered the love of the father buried in his heart, and was convinced that his father will never turn him away. To discover this in your heart is to discover God. The summary of what the New Testament tells us about God is that God is love. That is what Christ came to reveal. If God is not absolute love for me, then I have created my own God. ‘The image of God in us’, says Ron Rolheiser, ‘is the energy, fire, memory, especially the memory of a touch so tender and loving that its goodness and truth becomes the energy and prism through which we see everything’.
Sometimes people say that they are searching for meaning in their life. But this is not a search into the future. They actually want to place some worth in their past; some connection from past to present. They want to know that someone has understood their life’s journey and can embrace them for what they have become. The great consolation is to discover that even in that distorted past, God was present. This is when true identity settles in and with it comes meaning and reason to even continue to live,
We have created an economic or material God. He is just there to solve our problems like a traditional doctor. So the poor and the suffering call on to Him. The rich and famous have no need of Him. We mortals are complex with our choices; what to eat, to wear, to drive, to buy. Immortality has only one choice. No matter how much concern we may have, God’s own concern for us is one: “Fullness of Life” (Jn 10:10). Most of our desires and requests from God steal away this one principle concern of God for us. Things outside of us do not ensure our happiness. Fullness of life is happiness that springs up from within (Jn 4:14). But sometimes we wonder why God doesn’t answer. Will Love refuse us something totally good? The God who knows exactly what we need to have abundance of life will never refuse it from us (Mtt 6:8). This is why God does not give up in seducing us to his love. He can use both favour and bitter crisis to achieve this aim. Sometimes when we think that we are helping God to achieve this, we are only making things worse. He alone knows the best means. As Daniel O’Leary says that ‘Pursuit of this union with God is not hampered by our imperfections and peccadillos…is only blocked by our futile effort to improve, to get better, to save our souls… there is matchless immensity around the way God lures and allures our heart with a divine determination’
No person discovers God without being scandalized. The disciples went through these scandals ranging from Jesus ‘family background, his claim as bread of life and the ultimate scandal of the cross. The more you discover God the more you discover your ignorance. For as the heaven is higher than the earth so far is our thoughts from His (Is 55:9). But God does not play hard-to-get game. His way lies in the simplest things of life; nature and pains of life all speak about Him. That is why Christ likened the kingdom of God as becoming like a child; bordered only by the basics and leaving everything sorely in God’s hands. Unfortunately, many give up control a little too late, then they realise that the whole time they were seemly in control of their lives was a waste. The constant anxiety, panic and frustration that follows being in control is something very far from abundance of life. To accept that we are not in control and to live in the daily will of God is life in Spirit. ‘Surrender’, says Ignacio Larrangana, ‘is the fastest and surest road towards all liberation’. By that we feel heaven starting already here because ‘Heaven’, wrote Harry Williams, ‘will be recognised as a country we have already entered, and in whose light and warmth we have already lived’. It all begins here with a life lived to the full. Pains, suffering and joy are all God’s recipes when we allow Him to be the chef.
Fr. Chidi Cosmas Onwukwe SAC is Provincial Delegate in South Africa