How has your vision of God changed as you’ve grown in your faith?
I’ve been a Christian for nearly 40 years now, and to speak frankly, I am often disappointed by how little, over those decades, I have grown in holiness. My teenage self would have expected me to be much more Christlike by now! But while I may be disappointed in myself, I am not discouraged. My shortcomings have made me more aware, day by day and year by year, of how patient God is with me, how forbearing, how full of kindness and grace. Like the father of the Prodigal Son, He waits for me when I stray from Him and comes to meet me when I turn back to Him. It is therefore fitting that even in the book of Lamentations, we hear: “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23).
—Alan Jacobs, Distinguished Professor of Humanities in the Honors Program of Baylor University and author of How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds
In recent months I have begun to feel a shift in my vision of God. It has always been easier for me to relate to Jesus and to the Holy Spirit, but recently I have felt God pursuing me as a loving father does his daughter. My view of God as Father has always led me to see Him as a disciplinarian who is impossible to please and will spank me when I mess up. But as I have progressed in my faith, God is showing me that while any good father disciplines those he loves, our heavenly Father also delights in seeing His children smile, laugh, and enjoy being with Him. I want to become that little girl who curls up in her Daddy’s lap, asks Him for the desires of her heart, full of faith, and accepts that He knows best. How interesting it is to grow in maturity while regressing to childlikeness at the same time!
—Mandisa, Grammy Award-winning recording artist. Her latest album is Out of the Dark.
I was raised with an understanding that the good news of Jesus is personal salvation and individual reconciliation to God, but as I’ve grown in my faith, my understanding of the good news has encompassed a broader vision of God’s kingdom here on earth. God desires not just our repentance and relationship to Him; He also invites us into the work of restoration. Our individual relationship to God should have community impact, which involves seeking justice to correct systems and structures that perpetuate oppression and marginalize people made in the image of God. For followers of Christ, loving our neighbor means engaging the systems and structures in which our neighbors live. Jesus cared not just about people’s spiritual condition but about their physical and social needs as well, and we have the privilege to continue that work as the church.
—Jenny Yang, VP of Advocacy and Policy at World Relief and co-author of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate
I have found God to become more familiar and more strange at the same time. I get now, in my mid-40s, more than I did as a teen what it means to be a friend of God. It’s a wonderful feeling: that relaxed sense of being at home with someone. But I also find myself equally at home with the mystery of God, with the things that exceed my capacity to comprehend. I understand more fully that this mystery is something to be entered into deeply rather than mastered. It makes me think of what Bonhoeffer once said, that “[the] more we come to know a thing, the more mysterious it becomes for us. Not the person who is furthest away from us is the biggest mystery, but rather the nearest one.” His observation makes sense of my experience of God—and gives me peace.
—W. David O. Taylor, Assistant Professor of Theology and Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary, and author of The Theater of God’s Glory: Calvin, Creation, and the Liturgical Arts
Illustration by Eltipo