A Word from Canon Leighton in the August 6/13, 2017, Adventurer
When asked what it looks like for God to be in relationship with men and women, many people in our culture would point to Michelangelo’s famous painting – Creation of Adam – on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. The number of times that pop artists have riffed off this image bears witness to its place within the Western psyche.
Though it is beautiful, thoughtful, and meant to be biblical (Genesis 1:27), I take issue with this image. In it, God hovers on his movable and removed bubble, forming Adam with the lightest and tiniest touch. On the plus side, this visual distance speaks to God’s otherness, what we would call his holiness and transcendence, or the gap that exists between us and him because of sin. However, painting this kind of distance before man’s fall into sin inadvertently creates a misunderstanding: that God got the universe started with the tap of his fingertip, and now it carries on without him.
It is all too easy for us to bring this misunderstanding into our relationship with God.
We think he wants to convert us during a moving moment when we hear the gospel for the first time, but once saved, he’ll let us get on with the rest of our lives. We think that God wants us to come see him on Sunday mornings, but that he’s not interested in what happens during other days of the week. We think that he wants us to rise early to begin our day in prayer and studying his word, but that he will let us get through the rest of our day – chores, shepherding little ones, meetings, paying bills, email, etc. – without him.
One of my favorite moments in Scripture comes when Jesus encounters his soon-to-be disciple Nathanael. Jesus demonstrates that he understands Nathanael’s character, and that he even saw Nathanael at a point in time before he met him: “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you” (John 1:48). In heaven, I’ll look forward to asking Nathanael what he was doing under the fig tree, but for now, I’ll take rest in knowing that God sees and knows me at every minute of every day. He delights in the quirks of who he has made us each to be, and because of Christ, he looks with mercy on those sins of ours that only he sees.