God In Brown Shoes

I’ve been wrong before. About a lot of things. Some of them got written down.

Heresy is inevitable when describing God. And this fact leaves me paralyzed when I sit down to write.

What happens if I’m wrong?

Today it struck me, out of the blue, I will be. Often. As I have been. And that scared me. Until I saw it.

There’s a picture on my piano. It was drawn by my youngest daughter, the best artist in the family. It’s a picture of me.

I know this even though it lacks proper detail, color, proportion. In her rendition I have no neck, no knees or elbows. I’m wearing brown shoes and I hate brown shoes. But the hair’s right and I’m taller than everyone else on the page. And across the top, over my head, it says, “I love Daddy.”

To an art critic it’s atrocious.

As a form of photo ID it’s useless.

But to me, her Daddy, the model for this piece, the recipient of this gift, the object of her affection, it’s beautiful.

And every Wednesday we have art lessons – we sit down at the kitchen table and draw together. She’s getting better.

Maybe one day she’ll give me a neck and a proper pair of shoes but I can’t imagine that’ll make me love her any more.

I know the truth matters. I’m no proponent of loosey goosey make-it-up-as-you-go-along theology. It matters what God we’re loving, not just that we love God. I know Paul literally trembled when trying to put God into words – because the words matter. I know. I know. Truth. Accuracy. These things matter.

So does grace. And mercy. Two words I think – today anyway – God is speaking to me loudly. He’s reminding me to show them to myself as he’s shown them to me. And reminding me that clinging to fear of mistakes instead of his grace and mercy is, ironically, rendering him as a graceless and merciless God. An awful and incomplete picture.

It’s no surprise to God when I get God wrong – when the lines and colors are out of place and he’s left neckless in brown shoes of all things. It’s inevitable. I’m a child. His child.

All writers, in fact – of songs, books, blogs – are heretics. Painters and preachers and you too. God is unavoidably trimmed and bent to fit inside our words – our puny minds, our narrow cultures, time and space and paragraphs. Every attempt to capture him is more of a sketch than a photograph. No one has rendered God right.

But I wonder if he looks at all our well-intentioned scribbling and says, “It’s beautiful…Let’s draw together.”

The thought of that possibility makes me brave. Today anyway.

Tomorrow I might turn out to be wrong.