Clothing. Laughter. A woman in labor. These are a few of the less-well-known, but no less stunning, images God uses to describe Himself. In Lauren Winner’s beautiful book Wearing God, Winner fleshes out some of these unfamiliar metaphors. Her thoughtful probing and fresh observations of God have challenged my understanding in the best way. By the time I came to the last chapter, the book was riddled with Post-Its stuck onto the ideas I wanted to write down and remember.
Then, after capturing my imagination with layers of insight, Winner writes this: “The Bible (is) abundant with speech about God. But in the Christian tradition there is also a worry about this very abundance, a worry that, since God is infinite… perhaps we should not – indeed, cannot – say anything about God.”
After offering all these ways to describe God, was Winner saying it was best not to try? The speeding car of my thoughts came to a screeching halt. Apparently there have been a few theologians who advocated saying little about God; they felt that since we can’t do Him justice in our wildest praises, perhaps the best way to speak about God is “to say and then unsay whatever we say.”
But how can something be “unsaid”? I thought, No, I have spent far too long and far too much energy wrestling with this God I do not understand, this God I finally have come to believe is approachable, to go back to a state in which I’m reluctant to speak about Him. My spirit rose up on little-girl legs to turn toward this Father I have been letting myself trust, all the while murmuring icanboldyapproachthethroneofgrace… and choosing to believe that in all this wrestling and trusting and praising, He won’t quibble over my word choices.
I don’t think there’s such a thing as perfect praise. God doesn’t care if we use big words in our prayers. He’s not hoping we’ll clean ourselves up before we approach Him.
He knows He’s too big for us to wrap our minds around.
As Winner reminds me, it’s our speaking to God that’s most important: what He’s after is a relationship with us. He is vast, and our language can’t fully express Him. We can only attempt to do so, like a toddler who can only say “Mama”. But what did I do the first time my baby said this to me? I didn’t correct her pronunciation; I scooped her up in wild delight. God does the same with us.
In writing about the tension we feel when trying to talk about God, or to Him, Winner exposes our longing for meaningful communication. It’s this very tension – the sense that words are inadequate – that reminds us it really is God of whom we’re talking.
Photo via Visual Hunt