God’s View of Himself
I am fascinated by the subject of self identification – how we perceive ourselves and how we present ourselves to others.
My interest in this subject has several sources. First, I have a few children, so I’m acutely aware of the “self esteem” push that begins the moment they enter our public school system. In the main, I think this movement is failing kids on both ends of a wide spectrum. Some kids have way too much self esteem. Think of the guy on American Idol who sings like a wounded wildebeest and is utterly stunned when the judges don’t call off the whole contest and crown him on the spot. Other kids have entirely too little self esteem. Think of that beautiful girl in high school who develops an eating disorder because she thinks she’s fat.
Another reason for my interest in this subject is the business world. I read an article just last week on pointless buiness practices that are nonetheless entrenched in our culture. One is the annual performance review, now loathed equally by supervisors who think it’s ineffectively formal, and by the supervised who think they are consistently misjudged. But the practice which caught my eye had to do with interviewing job prospects. You know the questions, right? “What are your strengths?” “What are your weaknesses?” The article pointed out that asking these staple questions reveals very little other than a prospect’s self-image. The candidate with an inflated ego will present herself better than the more modest candidate. The latter may be far more qualified and accomplished, but doesn’t perceive herself that way and so doesn’t present herself that way. The article asked, “Which do you want – the one who blows the best smoke or the one who’ll do the best job?” Good question!
Anyway, my point in writing all this is to say that human beings have flawed perceptions, of others and of ourselves, too. But just as God knows us perfectly, so He knows Himself. He has no distortion. He has perfect clarity. And so when He presents Himself, He does so with perfect accuracy.
So how does God perceive and present Himself? Consider this passage in which God “self identifies” to Moses: “The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to become angry, rich in love and truth, showing mercy to thousands, forgiving their wickedness and rebellion and sin, but by no means clearing the guilty.'” Ex. 34:6-7.
How do you see God? Do you see Him as stern, severe, harsh, condemning? In your mind is He standing on the edge of heaven with lightning in His fists, watching, waiting for you to screw up so He can rock your world with wrath? Well, that may be how damnation and hellfire preachers have presented Him, but it’s not how God presents Himself!
Or perhaps you are on the other end of the spectrum and think God is just a big cosmic grandpa. And you, well, you’re His favorite, of course. Oh, He may fuss now and then about you lying or cheating on that test, but you’re sure that if you just coddle Him a little bit, you can make Him forget and it will all just go away. Well, that’s not God, either.
I think that when God, who shoots straighter than we’ve ever witnessed or imagined, says that He is kind and merciful and forgiving, but will not just turn a blind eye to our sin, we ought to take Him at His word. We should come and acknowledge that we are, in truth, guilty, and ask for what He offers – forgiveness, mercy and steadfast love.
Do you see God as He sees Himself?