Photo by Sean MacEnteeIn August 2010 I travelled to Chicago for the ELCA conference Follow Me: Sharing the Gospel in a 2.0 World. One of the highlights was catching up with my friend and colleague, Pastor Martin Malzahn and having dinner with Martin and his then fiancee Vanessa.
During our meal Vanessa asked me, “So, what is your image of God?” While God is, of course, right at the heart of things, and our own image(s) of God are such a powerful influence on the ways we live out our faith, we rarely ask or get asked this question. For Lutherans, I think, this seems like an impolite theological question - there might be too much sharing involved.
The Bible is filled with various images of God. In the Hebrew Scriptures God walks through the Garden of Eden, appears to Moses in a Burning Bush, speaks to Elijah in a still small voice. Jesus is God and an image of God. So is the Holy Spirit, who appears as flame, wind, and a dove. Like the Bible, we all have multiple images of God that we carry around, images that help us to relate to God in different ways at different times.
When Vanessa asked her question, I had to pause. I closed my eyes there in the restaurant and looked into my heart. It only took a few seconds, though it felt much longer. I opened my eyes, looked up and said, “Silence. My image of God is silence.” The answer surprised Vanessa - and it really surprised me.