I’ve had a quote of my own bouncing around in the back of my mind for some time – “Don’t try to confine God to the tiny box of your own imagination” (Norm Werner)
That thought always conjures up the image of a mime pretending to be trapped in a glass box. We’ve probably all seen that mime retune played out somewhere. Yet we all play the mime when we pretend that God can somehow be confined to the tiny box that is our own imagination. Most of us have grown up seeing pictures of paintings of Jesus and God that were created by artists. Somehow, the son of a Jewish carpenter in the middle east turned out to be an blonde Anglo-Saxon man, at least as imagined by those artists who created those great Renaissance paintings.
National Geographic did a story with pictures of what a typical Jewish man of that era and location might have looked like and it is nothing like the images that we have in mind. How many have ever seen the image that they paint of what Jesus might have looked like hanging on a wall?
That is just one example of the mistakes that we make when we try to imagine God and even Jesus, because are trapped in the mime box of our own imaginations. It is the ultimate act of human hubris that we imagine God in our own image. We take that limited imagination further when we try to imagine life after death and what heaven will be like. Almost all religions have some sort of definition of the afterlife or the next life, some description of what awaits us after death. Most of those descriptions are constrained by the glass box imaginations of those trying to define what they will be like. They all start off, “It will be like…” and then start describing things here on earth that they can relate to in this life.
The bible give us hints that God and his power is well beyond our limited ability to understand or even to image.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phillipians 4: 6-7)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9)
What we must lean upon is faith, not understanding. Our view of the afterlife must be based upon the belief that, “I don’t know what it will be like, but I believe that it will be great.” We are not called to understand but to believe. We are called to have faith.
Also, don’t be a mime in your faith; don’t become trapped in the small glass box of your own imagination. God and heaven is so much more than we can ever imagine. There is much joy to be found in exploring the realms beyond your own imagination. Get out of your glass boxes and let your mind soar through the realm of faith.
Have faith and the rest will take care of itself.