What Does God Look Like?

A question to all of you today:  When you think of God, what do you “see” ?

I got to thinking about that this morning when I read this funny little story forwarded to me by favorite high school English teacher, Ann Campbell:

A Kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom of children while they were drawing. She would occasionally walk around to see each child’s work. As she got to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was.

The girl replied, “I’m drawing God.”The teacher paused and said, “But no one knows what God looks like.”

Without missing a beat, or looking up from her drawing, the girl replied, “They will in a minute.”

Now, there are plenty of depictions of what people imagined Jesus to look like.  I know I always chuckle when I see the ones of Jesus in the perfectly white robe walking along a road in Galilee looking very blond and Swedish and sort of  “spacey.”  From His words in the New Testament, I can only imagine someone very different: a strong carpenter, an intense Jewish rabbi, a loyal and tender friend, a charismatic leader.  A divine presence in human form.

But God.  God the Creator, the Alpha and the Omega.  That’s something else.  When we talk about coming “boldly to the throne of God” it’s hard not to imagine a real throne in a real palace, and yet I know that these are human words for something so huge that we can’t find words to describe or imagine the true experience of the presence of God.  Nevertheless, I believe our hearts long for something to envision, if only to imagine placing ourselves there in that indescribable place of peace and glory.  For me, it’s always Light.  Just Light, brighter than bright, deep and warm and somehow pulsing with Love, and Life itself.

What about you?  What do you “see”?   What do you imagine it will be like to meet Him “face to face”?  Please write back and let us know.  Have a great day.


Vibiana’s Courage

Somewhere back in the 1800’s a crew was digging under the city of Rome, and deep in the catacombs they discovered a box with the bones of a young woman about whom we know nothing and, perhaps, everything.

Her remains now lie in the new cathedral of Los Angeles, where I went for a visit last week. It’s called the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels and it’s only been open since 2002 but it was built to last five hundred years.   I was struck by so many remarkable things that I saw there. First, although it’s a Catholic Church, everything about it has been designed to make it the city’s cathedral, a place for people of many denominations to come together and worship. It’s architecture has been the center of some controversy; I like it. It’s old and new and simple and grand all at the same time. The sculpture of Mary above the main entrance, by the artist Robert Grahame, says it all. He gave her the eyes of one race, the nose of another, the lips of a third. She stands humbly and yet with great power, a long braid down her back, with her arms open in short sleeves, almost as if they’re rolled up and ready to go to work to bring everyone together in one place if only for a moment.

But it’s the image of another young woman there that I can’t get out of my mind. I didn’t actually see her. But I imagined her as I stood at the tomb of that young woman from the catacombs of Rome. St. Vibiana. When her remains were discovered over a hundred years ago, there was nothing on the box to identify her except a name: Vibiana, and a design, a sign actually, a half sun with rays emanating from it. A sign that those digging there recognized as a message from the early Christians: this person was killed because she believed in Jesus.

Vibiana’s death has been placed somewhere near 300 A.D. and they estimate her age to be around fifteen.   Since then, all sorts of stories about her have been told; hopeful, encouraging stories, but stories nevertheless. All anyone really knows is that she lived and she died for Jesus. And that’s all I need to know about her.

We are so often assaulted these days by people who mock our faith in a loving and forgiving God. And sometimes the things they say, the facts they twist with sarcasm and wit and bullying, can challenge our faith and tempt us to doubt. But whatever the pundits say on TV is nothing, I imagine, to the mockery and abuse Vibiana must have faced in the cruel and brutal times of Roman persecution. How strong would we be if the words that late night critics threw at us were actually knives or bullets? Well, so far, we are still free to worship God as we choose in this country. And may we never take that freedom for granted.

As I said, the Cathedral was designed to last 500 years. And I hope it does. Because who knows who will stand at the tomb of Vibiana someday and draw courage from the life and the death of one, single girl.