I have long maintained that if you know what a person eats, you know a lot about them. A fast food cheeseburger or homemade chicken salad? Chicken fried steak and a beer or a rib-eye with a glass of red wine? A vegetable-heavy meal or a meat-heavy one? Middle Eastern, French, Japanese—or always good old American food. My good friend Jim Lee once wrote that the foods we eat, the way we eat them, and the imagination we bestow upon their preparation will tell much about us to historians, folklorists and anthropologists of Buck Rogers’ twenty-fifth century.
In the same vein, I am reminded of Ellen deGeneris’ plea often seen on Facebook about not judging people by their sexual preference. “Can’t we just judge them by the car they drive?” With my VW Beetle convertible, I think I pass that test with flying colors.
But yesterday our senior minister, Larry Thomas, suggested another way of looking at and interpreting people. He said in divinity school, a professor had said, “Describe your God for me, and I’ll tell you how you treat your family, your neighbors, your colleagues, and your friends.” The statement made a big impact on me. He talked about many years ago asking that question of a couple in pre-marital counseling. The woman’s God was kind and loving and forgiving. The man’s God was sort of Zeus, a figure of great and perhaps indiscriminate power, waiting for someone to mis-step. Our minister said he knew if that man didn’t rethink God and come up with a new vision, the marriage was doomed.
On the way home, Jordan asked Jacob what his God looked like. His answer was that God is good, loving and kind but he went on to say that he lived in a huge building that is fifty stories tall, which of course, made me think of “In my Father’s house there are many rooms.” Jacob asked his mom, and she said, “Kind and loving, wrapping his arms around us,” and when I was asked, I added “fatherly and forgiving.” The discussion deteriorated a bit until I suggested we were suddenly talking about images of the North Wind rather than God. Strangely, none of us mentioned a sense of humor, but daily instances convince me God has one.
I know it’s a cliché that people think of God as a fatherly figure with a long white beard and flowing white robes, and that God can’t really be contained in any one image. But it’s an interesting thought that how you feel about God reveals what you feel about yourself and others.
I know a few people, not many thank goodness, to whom I could say, “I know what your God is like.” Authoritarian. Vengeful. Angry.
Most of us leave little record of how we see God. We are more likely to leave a record of what we eat. Hmmm, wonder what twenty-fifth-century historians will make of German potato salad with hot dogs and corn?