Monasteries of the Heart

In Our Image

View all posts in Heart of the Matter

During Erie Benedictine meetings in summer we had a small group discussion around the topic “What is your image of God?” That’s an important question because, as the late Jesuit spiritual writer Anthony De Mello reminded us, “we become like the God we adore.” One sister said her image of God was a circle of fire, a great energy. Another said that for her God was a dark cloud of unknowing. “Not a heavy cloud,” she assured us, “but a cloud that hides all certainty.”

A third used nature for her mirror of God, telling a fascinating story about how grizzly bears need the seeds of whitebark pines to live through winter. Simple enough, right? Except that the cones of whitebark pines do not open naturally and bears are not equipped to crack them. So the bears survival depends on Clark’s nutcrackers, large jay-like birds, who open the cones, remove the pine nuts with their long beaks, place up to 80 seeds in a pouch under their tongue and bury 3 to 5 seeds in small trenches over large areas. The birds bury hundreds of thousands of seeds, enough seeds for themselves and for the grizzlies that raid the caches throughout the winter. For her, God was this unimaginable Designer who John Muir tried to capture when he said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

Perhaps the most moving testimony came from a sister who said she had struggled for years about whether there was a personal God. “Then one day, without explanation” she said, “I became aware of an intense light within me. It stayed for a few minutes and then disappeared. From that moment on, I knew with certainty that there was a personal God.”

I spoke about my changing image of God--from Judge who punished and rewarded; to one who lived in others, especially the poor; to the God of the prophets who confronted injustice; to the Nonviolent One; to “Mercy within mercy within mercy….” I suppose all of these images still live in me although right now I find myself praying to the Divine Mother.

How about you? Will you join the conversation? What is your image of God?