There are many ways God is described in the Bible. Some are anthropomorphic, such as, God is a mighty warrior. This makes sense, if you accept that humans are created in the likeness of God; and all the more so if you consider the story that God saw it was not good for the animated humus to be alone, anaesthetised them and cleaved them in two, that male and female might be warriors alongside one another, given to deliver one another from the powers of evil that set themselves against God. But God is also described in other ways, such as a mother eagle, or the wind.
The prophet Jeremiah offers us two of the most startling descriptions of God: God as a stranger, knowing and known by no one in the land, passing through, one whom even should we offer them bed and breakfast will only set out again on their way; and God as an elder, a once-mighty warrior, now physically spent, their mind also defeated by the advance of dementia, no longer able to construct a meaningful story from a shared history.
‘Oh hope of Israel, its saviour in time of trouble, why should you be like a stranger in the land, like a traveller turning aside for the night? Why should you be like someone confused, like a mighty warrior who cannot give help? Yet you, O Lord, are in the midst of us, and we are called by your name; do not forsake us!’ (Jeremiah 14:8, 9)
Jeremiah’s lament is stunning. It is also offered to us as faithful eyewitness testimony. God does not name it as false, nor move to redress the divine reputation, but is ‘in the midst of us’ as such a one as this.
What does it mean, to describe God, and our experience of God, in such ways? And how do these images help us inhabit what it means to be human, bearing the likeness of such a god, in the world?
Surely we encounter God, together, and for Christians through and with and in the spirit of Jesus in us, as we extend the hospitality of listening to one another’s story—of the intent and the goal of our journeying, our wanderings, our pilgrimage in the company of others, as we understand it—and in the holding of one another within a shared story that provides us with meaning as well as with a mutual, interdependent, agency and dependency?