Sometimes I want to call God Mother, Father, friend, companion, lover of my soul. At other times I want to call God creator, saviour, Lord of the Universe, bringer of justice, rescuer of the poor. I thought about this a lot this morning after receiving a message from a friend who reads my facebook prayers.
I’ve really enjoyed your prayers, Christine. However in recent months I’m noticing more and more that Jesus isn’t mentioned by name…. Somehow God and Christ, accurate names, aren’t as intimate and personal too me as the name “Jesus”… Am I just a hopeless Evangelical?
Her words were very perceptive but caught me off guard inviting me to think about what I call God and why. Have I drifted away from a sense of personal intimacy with God or is there more to this change?
What we call God matters. All the names I listed above are legitimate and important names for God, but they produce very different images in our minds. The first list all bring a sense of intimacy with them. They draw us into a close and personal relationship to God. They invite us to call God Abba, the Christ Jesus and the Spirit Comforter. The encourage us to grow the love of God deep within our hearts.
However, these names can also have negative connotations. For some calling God father creates images of hierarchical and patriarchal structures in which men rule over women and the elite rule over the poor and the marginalized. And the use of mother for some, creates images of amazonian feminists who are trying to destroy the family and our faith in God.
The second list at least for me are those that inspire me to action. They encourage me to embrace God’s ways of justice and mercy and encourage me to place God’s dream of a world made new at the centre of all I am and do. However they often create more distant images in our minds, images of a lordly figure who sits on a throne far above our world distributing justice sometimes with an arbitrary and vengeful hand.
My prayers in the last few months have tended to reflect this more activist view of God. The economic volatility of our world and the growing numbers of people I know who are sinking into poverty, the crashing waves of natural disasters that are rending the lives of so many I care about, and the ongoing challenges of poverty, oppression and disease tear at my heart and I want to respond and encourage others to respond.
At the same time I want to grow in intimacy with God. Perhaps like my friend who commented this morning I am at heart a hopeless evangelical. I think that our personal relationship with God is crucially important. Without the knowledge that God resides in the very personal and individual place of my heart it would be impossible for me to respond to the needs I see around me. I realize too that my language needs to reflect that.
Part of what my friend’s comment this morning made me realize is that I need to broaden the range of names I use for God. Yes I need to regularly use names that draw me into intimacy, that is essential for me to grow into the love of God. But these need to be balanced with names that inspire me to respond and to act as God’s representative to our desperately needy world.
So my question for you this morning is: What do you most frequently call God and how does that reflect your view of God?