God is not a chameleon. He is who He is. But He does have the ability to show Himself to us in a way that we can understand. To show up in a way that’s meaningful to us.
God is not a cookie cutter God. He doesn’t say, “This is who I am…you either get me or you don’t.” He understands that we all have unique and contorted lenses through which we see life. He is humble enough, wise enough, to come to us in a form that is impactful and powerful and specific to our situation. He even chooses not to show Himself at times when we are not willing or ready for that encounter. He personalizes our interactions with Him by taking into consideration our pain, our experiences, our limitations, and our understandings.
When my daughter was going through leukemia treatment and I was a single mom, I had moments where I was so afraid, so discouraged, and so overwhelmed that my prayer life consisted of…”Dear God…Ugh.” I had nothing inside of myself, not even the energy or courage to approach God for help. During these times, Jesus would come to me as a young boy leading a lion.
I know, it sounds weird. But on a spiritual plane, I was curled up in the fetal position on the ground…frozen in perpetual grief and fear. I could not and would not have responded to Jesus the Judge or Jesus the Truth Teller or Jesus the Conqueror. Although Jesus is all of those things, that’s not what I needed from Him in those moments.
So Jesus came to me as a small boy… a child with a soft voice, innocent eyes, and gentle touch. Bottom line, He was approachable. I could talk to him.
He would squat down unceremoniously on the ground next to me. “Are you ok?” he’d ask. “What’s wrong?”
Despite my guardedness and cynicism, I couldn’t help but talk to this child. Sense his concern. Pour out my pain to him. Cry with him.
He would listen soberly, respectfully. When I’d ask him the hard, theological questions burning in my heart, He’d grin and answer, with sparkling eyes, “Wait til you see what my Dad’s got in mind.” Then he would grab my hand, pull me to my feet, ask me to lay down on the back of the lion who always stood a few paces behind the boy, clearly ready to respond the boy’s every whim.
What a lion it was! Not scary, but awe-inspiring with rippling muscles, ferocious nature, unquestionable power. It could do or have whatever it chose, but it chose to carry me. It chose to bear the weight of my doubts, my worry, my fear, my hopelessness. It did for me what I could not do for myself. I moved me forward when I wanted to give up.
The lion represented Jesus’s power on my behalf. And how I needed His power. But the lion didn’t lead. The boy led the lion because, first and foremost, I needed God’s empathy and concern and humility.
As humans, we have limitations and wounds and weaknesses that affect our ability to show up for others in the ways they might need. We usually only have a few tools in our tool belt for interacting. We may be good at confrontation but bad at empathy. We may be full of grace but short on honest criticism. We may excel at teaching but lack the patience to listen.
God has no limitations. He has every tool at his disposal, and a limitless knowledge of exactly what we need from Him at every point in our lives.
- When we need discipline, He isn’t fooled by our excuses. He delivers correction.
- When we are discouraged, He doesn’t lecture or condescend to us. He offers encouragement.
- When we need truth, He doesn’t beat around the bush. He tells it like it is.
When dealing with someone hard-headed and prideful, He may be the Forceful Enforcer. When dealing with someone wounded and frightened, He may be the Gentle Rescuer. He doesn’t compromise His nature. But He does adapt His presentation. He interacts with us in the way that we respond to. Scripture puts it this way:
God is not one-dimensional. Like the people He created, He is wonderfully complex, mysterious, and unfathomably deep.
- The God who destroyed the entire world by flood is the same God who leaves 99 sheep untended and goes off in search of that 1 rebellious sheep who got himself lost.
- The God whose wrath drives him to punish sin is the same God whose love drives him to die in our place.
- The God who holds the stars in place is the same God who stoops down to hold us up.
God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But He deals with us uniquely.
He is a Father to the fatherless. A friend to the lonely. A guide to the lost. A light to those who walk in darkness. A refuge to the oppressed.
He is capable of being all things to all people. He is everything we need in each unique circumstance of our lives.
Who do you need God to be for you today?