How do you picture God?
I think that they way you picture God tells a lot about you and about the way that you view your relationship with God.
When I first started down my adult journey with God, I pictured him as my next door neighbor at the grill. He was a man of about 50'ish with short, graying hair, that you could tell was strong. Muscular but not someone who spent hours at the gym. Just someone that enjoyed physical things and could give someone a big hug and twirl them around. A guy with a ready smile and a twinkle in his eyes.
We were neighbors but we did not have a fence. I always knew that I was invited to come on over, and pull out my favorite drink from his cooler and sit down and just talk.
He would grill and listen and just let me spill my guts on whatever was on my mind. Sometimes he'd say something or ask a question, but most of the time, he would just listen and let me vent. I always felt better about it afterwards. Not that he solved anything but just that he listened and understood. Then I'd go home and he would wave and tell me to come back anytime.
Then something happened. As I started to learn more, I realized that the guy at the grill was God. I mean he just wasn't some guy - He was GOD! The creator of heaven and earth, of all that was seen and unseen, the head guy in charge.
And I didn't feel like I could go over as much. He was busy after all, taking care of the universe, fielding higher calls from folks with a lot more problems than me. Folks with cancer, families losing their homes, folks battling addiction at the end of their rope, folks who REALLY needed him. What was I doing taking time on his cooler?
So, I didn't go over as much and when I did, it wasn't as close. I sort of hid the things that were really bothering me. As if he didn't already know but, now that I knew he was God, I didn't want him to see me that way.
Then something else happened.
I became a father.
As I became a father, my understanding of God as the Father really sunk in. He was still not some guy at the grill, he was not just the all-powerful Creator of the Universe -- he was a father, he is MY heavenly father.
As I watched my children struggle with the challenges in their life, I thought this must be how our Father watches us struggle with our lives. What seemed like a small thing to me, really meant the world to my children. Sometimes, they wanted my help, but a lot of times, they just wanted me to listen and give them a chance. Pouring juice into their own cup - a small thing for me but to see the glowing pride in their face - it meant so much to them. "Did you see me Daddy? I did it myself!" And in truth, I was smiling too! I was proud of them!
And if I, imperfect sinner that I am, could understand that then how much more does God who is perfect and can love more than I can possibly know -- how much more can he understand.
It was only after I became a father that I fully understood that God loves me as a perfect father loves his children. He wants me come to him with my success and my problems, petty or not, because he likes to spend time with me. He rejoices in my victories because they are his victories too.
And so I started to take my seat at the cooler again. He never said anything but I could tell he was glad to have me back.
And it was different - it was better. This was not just some guy. This was not some impersonal, all-powerful judge. This was my heavenly father, I could go to him with anything. If things were too much for me, I could cast my burdens upon him and ask for his help. He wanted to help.
And the same is true for you.
I don't know how you picture God. But I can tell you that however you picture him, he loves you and wants a personal relationship with you. Not just on Sunday but everyday. And not just when times are good but all the time. All you have to do is talk to him and he listens.
As for me, my God BBQs. And he always has my favorite drinks!