Saturday, May 24, 2014

Baby in a Bathtub: An Image of a Joyful God

I just had a silly image of God pop up in my mind. It didn't fit with my conservative Baptist upbringing because it is childish and goofy. But I couldn't help it--former USC Philosophy professor Dallas Willard made me think of God this way. Anyway, here is the image:

God is a baby in a big, white, four legged bathtub. He's splashing around, flailing his arms with joy, smacking the water with his hands, making the coo-ing, chirping noises babies make. Drops of water fly over the side of the bathtub and fall down to earth in big, fat, drops.

Pretty silly, huh?

I am reading Dallas Willard's book The Divine Conspiracy ( Get the book here! ) and this is the passage that spurred on that image:
"We should, to begin with, think that God leads a very interesting life and that he is full of joy. Undoubtedly, he is the most joyous being in the universe. The abundance of his love and generosity is inseparable from his infinite joy. All of the good and beautiful things from which we occasionally drink tiny droplets of soul-exhilarating joy, God continuously experiences in all their breadth and depth and richness."

God, joyful? Really? I never pictured him that way. Then again, I never pictured him as a baby in a bathtub either. Or having an "interesting" life. I didn't really think of God as being morose and boring, but I am not sure I ever thought of God as joyous or interesting. Willard goes on to say that God loves us, which I know, but he explains that most Christians think God loves us like this:
"...God loves us without liking us--through gritted teeth..."
Yes, now THAT is how I pictured God. I am pretty sure that the Bible I got at my baptism had a picture inside the front cover of God gritting his teeth, smiling back the pain of having to send his Son to save our miserable souls.(It was right next to the full color picture of Jesus knocking on the door of my heart. Remember that one?) I'm kidding about the "gritty God" pic, but not about the image I had of God in my mind then (gritting his teeth) and now (happy baby in a bathtub).
So I am only 50 pages into this book and so far my mental image of God has changed.
has an INTERESTING life.

But wait, there's more...

GOD THINKS CREATION IS AWESOME!  AS IN "TOTALLY AWESOME!" "RADICAL!" "GNARLY"! (Sorry, I'm from California AND a child of the 80's.)
I knew God thought his creation was "very good" (Read Genesis 1) but I pictured him saying "Very good" more like a placated parent after his teenager has FINALLY taken the trash, not the "Very good!" of a father who just watched his daughter ride a bike without training wheels for the first time or the "VERY GOOD!" of a coach whose athlete just nailed the perfect gymnastics floor routine to win gold.
God revels in the beauty of his creation and it gives him joy. He is interested in all of it...very, very interested. So maybe my image of God as an exhilarated baby enjoying a bath isn't far off.  
And those drops that splash up and out over the edge?
They land on me sometimes...
I went to visit my sister in Florida recently and she took me to a beach near Boca Raton. When we got out of the car and walked across the parking lot, I couldn't see the beach because of a large sandy berm. We trekked up it with our beach chairs and towels and when we finally got to the top, I could see all the way to the horizon. I stopped in my tracks.
"Oh my gosh! Look at this! Are you kidding me?" I exclaimed. The ocean water was light blue; the sand a warm cream color and the sky an emerald blue with just a few wispy clouds. White crested waves were splashing off red rocks and people were looking for fish with snorkeling gear. It was gorgeous! I'm from California so I've seen beautiful beaches before, but STILL. This was TOTALLY AWESOME DUDE. I just stood there smiling like a kid on Christmas babbling about how incredible the view was. My sister giggled. She had seen this view before so some of the affect had worn off, but she could appreciate my seeing it for the first time. That was a little drop of beauty that flew out of God's bathtub and hit me square between the eyes.
Here's another one.
I walk my dog everyday. She is a whippet (a small greyhound) so she needs a lot of exercise or she eats the couch. I take her on a leash around my neighborhood and then down to a park that has a long, wide, open green space. When I get there, if no one is around, I unhook the leash from her collar. She bolts away like she is never going to come back, and jumps and leaps and runs in what seems like nine directions at once. She is THRILLED. I get this feeling inside me I can't explain when I see her run free-- a drop of joy falling on me from God's bathtub. I love to see her so happy - to see her doing what she was meant to do, what she loves to do--RUN. Lucky for me, she also loves to EAT, so she comes back for one of the doggy treats I carry with me. If I didn't smell like bacon, she would probably be near the Mexican border by now.

I think God is pretty fed up with my old, inaccurate images of him as a bored, disgruntled, but gentle old man with a big heart. So he is changing the way I see him. He has thrown some pretty good descriptions of him in front of me lately including these:

"We know we do not feed provide the earth. You water our gardens. You break up the clods and make them soft with rain (or bathwater?)" 
-Thomas Becon

"Think of yourself as a gardener. You want to cultivate a garden in your soul that will delight the Lord? How will this garden be watered? There are four ways...draw water from a well. This is hard work. You could use a water wheel with could have your garden near a stream or brook...but wouldn't it be best of all if rain (bathwater?) fell from heaven?  You could let the Lord water your garden." 
-Teresa of Avila

And then I read this:
James 1:17  "Every good and perfect gift comes from above..."
Like drops of bath water maybe?

-Hope A Horner, 2014
Feel free to forward, post and share. To reprint or publish off-line, contact author at hopeh1122 on gmail.

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