My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When may I come to see God’s face? [Psalm 42:2 (GW)]
But you can’t see my face, because no one may see me and live. [Exodus 33:20 (GW)]
“He’s not at all what I expected!” I said after seeing a well-known radio personality in person. Nowhere near as attractive, suave and elegant as he’d sounded on the air, he was much better in my mind’s eye. Older, heavier, less stylish and bald, I was disappointed. The imagined was so much better than the reality.
Do you ever try to visualize God? Would he look like George Burns, the kindly white-haired old man in the movie Oh, God? whose first words to John Denver’s character were, “Eh, not what you expected?” He certainly wasn’t! Maybe God would sound and look more like Morgan Freeman in Bruce Almighty and appear in an elegant white suit. Perhaps He’d be more like David Strathairn in Interview with God, who, in true rabbinic fashion, answered questions with questions of his own during three interviews. In The Shack, God was portrayed by Octavia Spencer, a heavy-set soft-spoken African-American woman who went by the name of “Papa.” Of course, none of these characterizations come anywhere close to personifying God.
Nevertheless, even though we know God is spirit and without a physical body, we continue trying to visualize Him. Even the most creative mind is incapable of clearly picturing a God, unrestrained by time or space, who can be everywhere at all times: a God who sees, hears and knows all, not just in the present, but in the past and future as well. Our limited imaginations can’t come close to comprehending such an unlimited being who always has been, is now, and forevermore will be. The enormity and power of God is incomprehensible. I’m overwhelmed even thinking about it. That, however, is what I think God wants: for us to be awed and overcome by His amazing presence.
Even though God walked on earth for thirty-three years, we have no physical description of Him and Scripture used few adjectives. While John, Peter and James saw Jesus’ face shine like the sun and His clothes become white during the Transfiguration, they had but a glimpse of His great God glory! Since Judas had to point out Jesus to the soldiers in the garden, when living as a man, Jesus must have looked quite similar to every other Jewish Galilean.
Fortunately, while we may not know exactly what God looks like, we can know Him. Scripture tells us what He was like and, even though we can’t see Him, we know He is there. Moreover, when we eventually do come face to face with our Heavenly Father, we won’t be disappointed (as I was with that radio personality). It’s a guarantee; the reality will be far better than anything we possibly could imagine.