The Self-Defined God…

Another discussion from Images of God:


The Self-defined God…
by Larry Williams – Tuesday, 6 March 2012, 06:07 PM
To the first reading: “Unsaying the Word ‘God'”, I say a resounding, “YES!” I have mentioned before that the closer I get to God… or at least I THINK I’m getting closer… the less I can SAY about God. For me, God is Self-defined. Not the individual human defines God, rather God defines God. And that can be, by the nature of God’s vastness, completely incomprehensible. My son considers himself to be agnostic. He sees the practical logic of creation needing a Creator, yet has never “felt a personal God.” His experience is impossible for me to argue with. All I can do is share my own, and pray that God would dain to speak in my son’s language. I believe God does this, too. A couple years ago, I wrote about John Muir, as revealed in Ken Burn’s documentary about the National Parks. You can read the blog here:

Creation allows God to speak and act in God’s creativity and beauty. There is a mystical quality for me to be in the natural world as a fully functional human being. I try to take pictures… to record images… of the beauty I see; yet the images never get the full, sensual scene… The smell… the sound… the feel of the air… the silence, or the immensity of sound in a waterfall, or of the ocean waves… I find myself completely enveloped by God, but just as the authors of the articles we read, the name… the word… is just too small. It can’t encompass the experience. I can only imagine the wonder of an astronomer looking into the immensity of space, where structure and chaos are linked in a dance of ongoing creation.

And then…. there are moments… when the unfathomable God uses life events to connect formerly disconnected places in my life and heart. The emotion overwhelms me as “the balm of Gilead” pours over a wounded place I had forgotten about, or believed I would have to just live with. I stand and can only say, “Of course”… only God could be both so transcendent and personal at the same time.

But I still can’t say much about God…
I am just happy to live within God…
Although, if I were honest…
It also can suck to live within God…

Re: The Self-defined God…
by John Ray – Wednesday, 7 March 2012, 12:01 PM

I didn’t have the same reaction to the thought of “unsaying” the name of God as much as I did to the thought of “unlearning” the false images of God attached to it. Maybe it is the same thing. But then, it is limiting to use “god” as expect us to get Him “right”, isn’t it. Have you ever thought that when people say that don’t believe in “god”, they are saying they don’t believe in what or who the three letters strung together represent to them? I think in some, maybe many, cases that could be a good thing.
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Re: The Self-defined God…
by Larry Williams – Wednesday, 7 March 2012, 04:24 PM
“Have you ever thought that when people say that don’t believe in “god”, they are saying they don’t believe in what or who the three letters strung together represent to them? I think in some, maybe many, cases that could be a good thing”

I would agree with you, John. However, it is quite another thing indeed when the one saying it is your own son….. It certainly makes one look backwards at how my own view of God has changed. I can say, though, that my son talks to me honestly about his life, doubts, and the continued questions he is working through. I am most thankful for that, because it suggests to me that the view he has of God seems to be coming through my own life and our time together…. a very humbling and scary thought. As it relates to John Muir, I think the “God” he found in the mountains was both wild and enveloping at the same time. I think Muir felt wonder and love coming from those wild places. That was why he kept returning over and over, all the while finding strength and health in the wilderness. I love that picture, and what I take to be God’s ever reaching heart of love for a man who’s soul had been scourged by legalism.

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Re: The Self-defined God…
by Darrel Harvey – Thursday, 8 March 2012, 09:25 AM

I can’t help but pick up the lightness in your walk these days, and yet you continue to lean into the unfathomable mystery of God/god/***. About the reading, I’m kind of with John. I focused on the name and the attachments to those names that we have held to. Thanks for broadening my thinking more.
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Re: The Self-defined God…
by William Zuelke – Friday, 9 March 2012, 11:46 AM

thanks for your writing larry..

if it is possible to stand in nature and experience God because God abides in and is expressed through god’s creation, do we not also believe that in the person of the living Christ we can also experience God……….and this has the advantage of not being derivative……..

so the invitation of ignatius of Loyola……lean into the person of jesus christ… him work, and use the human power of imagination to fully experience what you are seeing, listening to, feeling…..
(we do this all the time with the movies)
and reflect on your experience and come to know who this person is that you are relating with and to. It is this experience I wish to share, the direct experience of god in jesus christ through the power of the holy spirit.


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Re: The Self-defined God…
by Larry Williams – Friday, 9 March 2012, 08:03 PM
Last spring, I saw a program on TV about Jesus and the Shroud of Turin. Although I had previously heard some of the issues surrounding the Shroud, my imagination was especially piqued by an artist’s computer rendering in 3D of what the person buried in the shroud might have looked like. This image was especially important for me at the time. I remember thinking that I would like to hang out with the young man staring back at me through the screen. One of the habits I had at the time, was to leave the basement I was living in at night, to stand outside and smoke, while also enjoying the quiet of the evening. One particular evening, I was especially lonely, and wanted to talk with someone, but there was nobody in my life at the time; my daughter, who previously lived with me, was away at college, and I was alone. So… I consciously tried to actively imagine the young man I had seen on TV standing near me. I began to tell my imaginary friend, who isn’t really imaginary… just unseen… what I was feeling. Eventually, I heard words of encouragement and love spoken inwardly. There were questions asked which helped me towards growth. While my experience wasn’t putting myself into the stories of Jesus in scripture, it was, instead, to invite the human Jesus into my own.
Several years ago, when my father was still alive and going through a really difficult time; I suggested he do something similar. Dad was driving a truck across the country, and my mother was having mental health issues, while he had to continue to work and drive to make money to support them. He was very low, emotionally, at the time. I suggested that he imagine Jesus sitting in the passenger seat next to him as he drove across the country, and talk to him about the issues surrounding my mother and his life. Just before he died, he wrote me a letter telling me how meaningful that thought was, and how he had driven across the country with Jesus sitting next to him. He had received comfort from the presence of Christ in his imagination, or more specifically, Christ as seen through the eyes of faith. I have since suggested that others use the same technique.


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