Pictures of God as a child in the arms of a woman are far more common, but Google Images produces a lot for the search “God enthroned”, and quite a few of them are the old man with the beard. Blake’s is one of my favourites. The old man with the beard is the perfect image for Richard Dawkins to ridicule- how could anyone believe in that- and also for a fair few fourteen-year-olds to use in their journey to atheism.
There are other images of God. There is God as life-force, immanent in all things. For the Quaker, God is Relationship, experience, the inner light which we get to know. Moving into Quakerism, I had experiences of being moved to minister, possibly of being led into action, and I found that any idea of God I had got in the way of experiences of God. I decided to be open to new perceptions of these experiences, rather than being too quick to interpret them in the way of my understanding of previous experiences. I do not necessarily attach the experience too quickly to the word “God” or other words, and this is a discipline I use to try to get to the fullness of the experience.
I now seek to apply this to other experiences: getting to know other people, for example. Really, who is this person, now?
Allison Grayhurst applies it to spiritual growth. Indeed one of the barriers to growth is my preconception of what the new, more mature Flourish might look like. And when it comes, I have not anticipated the result, except once or twice in deep communing with my subconscious. Of course I need a “world map”, an understanding so that I can navigate quotidian situations, but also I need openness to experience so that I can gain the full blessing of it.