Your Favorite Image of God

by | Jan 19, 2024 | Formation, Reflections | 1 comment

Every family has favorites

Actually, there may be many favorites in a family depending on who you ask and their level of honesty. It does not necessarily mean we love other members less. It simply means that, for a variety of reasons, we feel closer to one member of the family than another at a particular time.

At times in my life, I have felt closer to my mother than my father. At other times it was reversed. Of course, there were times when I felt closer to my sister because she was closer to my age with all that implied in an immigrant family. Much depended upon where I was in my growth process. No matter who I felt closest to I never stopped loving my family.

My relationship to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

As I look back over my life I realize how, over time, my relationship to God has emphasized one or another person of the Trinity. I suspect many of us relate to God as revealed to us in the person of Jesus, or as some would say God in the flesh. But who of us have not had moments we stood in awe at some aspect of our world and felt a closeness to God as Creator. Or how about the times when we felt the inspiration of the Spirit in understanding something.

I know in my life I have gone through phases where I was most comfortable with Father… Son … or Holy Spirit.

Our changing images of God

Some time ago, the renowned Baylor University Institute for Studies of Religion developed short descriptions of the major images of God. As you read the following, keep in mind that many of us slide from one image to another quite easily.

  • Authoritative God: highly involved in personal decision-making and world affairs—responsible for economic problems, earthquakes, tsunamis—sends down punishment to unfaithful people now and in the future.
  • Benevolent God: highly involved and active in our daily lives, but not in angry and wrathful ways—positive influence upon, and deeply engaged in, our world.
  • Critical God: does not interact directly with the world, but views it and us unfavorably. God’s displeasure with us will be felt in divine justice after we die.
  • Distant God: does not “do” things in the world nor hold any opinions about us or world events. God is a cosmic force that set the laws of nature in motion and walked away.

I wonder whether over time we shift we lean towards one or the other.

Regardless of which you identify with, you might ask “How is that image working for you?”

Somethings to think about

  • At this stage of my life which person or concept of God am I most aware of?
  • How might our concept of God impact our view of life and community?

Richard Rohr offers this prayer with yet another way of naming our relationship to God…

God for us, we call you “Father.”

God alongside us, we call you “Jesus.”

God within us, we call you “Holy Spirit.”

Together, you are the Eternal Mystery

That enables, enfolds, and enlivens all things,

Even us and even me.

Every name falls short of your goodness and greatness.

We can only see who you are in what is.

We ask for such perfect seeing— As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.


I can see why he has been praying this prayer for 20 years!

Originally posted on Vincentian Mindwalk


1 Comment

  1. Tom M

    Very helpful. Thanks