In the past I worshipped strength, power, possessions, victory, being correct, position, esteem, and so on. Not only is this what American culture tells us to do, it was effectively the sum total of my image of God. As I hopefully get wiser, I increasingly find this axiom to be True: We are each deeply formed by and into the image of what we think the Divine and/or Reality is like. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that when I thought our Creator was like Zeus, i.e. distant, all-powerful, violent, and controlling, I struggled a lot with being loving, kind, caring, and giving.
The thing is, I think I’m far from alone when it comes to being shaped by this picture of God, or Life if you don’t believe in a deity. Power over others is the way of capitalistic/consumerist peoples and how we think “God” operates, which doesn’t leave much room for selfless service, vulnerability, and humility. Now, before I progress I want to note I believe God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent (i.e. all-powerful, all-knowing, and present everywhere), it’s just that when we stop there we’re fooled into thinking life is a game we’re supposed to win, when in reality it’s gift and the point is learning to love.
In Christianity we’re taught Jesus the Christ is the full revelation of who God is and what God is like. This means as much as the Divine is immeasurably powerful and knowledgeable, our Source is equally humble, weak, and vulnerable. Jesus, the perfect picture of God, was a baby, learned, grew in wisdom, hungered, pooped, cried, suffered, weakened, and died, among other things.
(I don’t think Brenéis contradicting me here because by “weakness” she means “less than”, while I mean “in need of and/or able to be hurt/helped by others”)
George Maloney (1924-2005), a Catholic priest with a doctorate in Eastern Christian spirituality wrote:
In Eastern Christian spirituality, there has always been a special accent on the gentleness and humility of the Word made flesh [i.e. Jesus] as He comes to serve us in order to reflect the infinite love of the Father. He serves us not in power but in the weakness of a suffering servant on the cross. This is the kenotic spirituality of the Eastern mystics who (in Saint Paul’s words, “He emptied himself,” Philippians 2:7) strove to live a life of non-violence and of gentle and humble service in imitation of the suffering servant.
I love how George mentions the Eastern mystics modeled their lives after Christ, embodying peace, tenderness, and kindness in humble service for the benefit of others. In the stories about Jesus we see a man who was tempted in ALL the ways we are, wept at the death of his friend, became frustrated with followers and religious leaders who kept thinking power and prestige mattered more than kindness and care, shared his struggles, and both asked for and needed help (like when he could no longer carry his cross, so a stranger carried it for him).
God is all about relationship (hence people, animals, aliens, etc.) and love. In fact, based on knowing Jesus, John names the very character and nature of God Light and Love. Humility, weakness, and vulnerability are central aspects to loving relationships, because they’re all about mutuality, coming towards one another, and sharing life. With that in mind it makes perfect sense to me that as much as God is all-powerful, the Divine is equally all vulnerable.
When I thought God was “large and in charge”, impervious to hurt, and distant, I struggled something fierce with loving and caring for others. Yet, as Christ has revealed to me how divine humility, weakness, and vulnerability are, my heart has grown far more than the Grinch’s ever did. I’ll close by bringing together God’s power and vulnerability. In the life and teachings of the Christ we see what I think is another Big-T Truth: The point of having strengths, blessings, and power is to use them for the benefit of others; that’s what God does and we’re invited to join in.
Grace and peace,