March 24th, 2021
“The Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you” – Numbers 6:25
It is a curious thing that many images of God (at least in the West) are those of a grumpy old man. It seems like Christians prefer that God the Creator has white hair, a long flowing beard, and a bad attitude. God the Father is seldom portrayed as welcoming, like the father in the parable of The Prodigal Son. He usually looks more like the kind of dad who wants to kick your ass after you wrecked the family car. He is not terribly approachable.
Even images of Jesus are sometimes a bit harsh. The Lord is frequently shown as King and Judge, not often a brother or as a friend. Years ago, I attended a religious retreat, and another guy at the meeting described his version of Jesus as being like a “a stern magistrate”. Why pray to somebody who is out to get you?
The Hindus have innumerable visions of the Divine. Some seem benign, some not so much. The Buddhists have a huge variety of depictions of the Buddha, but then he doesn’t really qualify as a god per se. Maybe the Jews and the Muslims have it right: they have no images of God at all.
Back to Christian iconography…
Images of the Child Jesus are probably the easiest for me to accept. However, even those portrayals make the boy look too much like an adult. It’s obvious that the kid is in charge. Except for maybe in a Nativity scene, the Christ Child never looks like how he really was: tiny, helpless, and totally trusting in others. It seems that Christians just can’t handle the idea that Jesus, who is God, was utterly powerless at the start of his life.
We like power.
Asher, our four-month-old buddy, lies next to me asleep. His little face runs through the entire gamut of human emotion as he slumbers. He looks sad at times, and then he smiles and giggles in a baby dream. He looks scared for a moment, or frustrated, or maybe a bit upset. No matter. Regardless of his expression, his face is always lovable.
When Asher awakens and looks at me, my heart melts. I would do anything for that boy.
Asher’s face is the face of God.