Handpicked God

Photo via Flickr user Mark Grapengater
Photo via Flickr user Mark Grapengater

“I’m sidestepping the Rachel and Leah story today in the children’s sermon,” the senior pastor said to me. “I’m talking about Veteran’s Day instead.”

“Smart move,” I answered, laughing.

“Is it though?” I asked myself later. I think so. The Rachel and Leah story is a complicated one to address with children. As adults, we do have to decide what children are ready to hear. It is also easy, however, to keep focusing on only the Bible stories that work for us. Like handpicking the Bible stories we think are appropriate for children, adults tend to continue to side step the messy stories that create cognitive dissonance with the idea of God or Jesus that has taken root in our minds and hearts. There is so much to choose from, and it seems to be human nature to project our own needs onto these faith stories.

Our handpicked views of God can differ greatly. Do you want a vengeful God? A kind God? A legalistic God? An empathetic God? It’s all in there if you look long enough.

The trouble comes when we, as adults, are not wiling to put the stories in conversation with each other. When we decide who we think God is and only look at the stories that support our limited image.

Every verse is not equal. Some verses, passages and books of the Bible are simply more helpful and accessible and relevant than others. Over time, some parts of the Bible have more successfully inspired art and action, worship and ceremony. Some parts more than others get at the root of God’s Spirit. It is okay to pass over some passages of the Bible for small children. It is also okay for adults to have a canon within a canon, I think. The trick is to being open to the parts that are not our favorite and may not serve our existing images of God. It’s good, also, to look outside of the Bible for supplemental material when seeking truth, to remember that God is bigger than any book. Open it back up. Be willing to be confused. Let the idea of God in our minds breathe a little bit.

For indeed, God is bigger, more complex and more beautiful than our limited human minds could imagine.

Published by Ellie Roscher

Ellie Roscher is the author of How Coffee Saved My Life, and Other Stories of Stumbling to Grace. She holds a master’s degree in Theology/Urban Ministry from Luther Seminary and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College.

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