For those that know my aversion to sitting still for any length of time longer than it takes to stand up, it may come as a surprise that one of my favorite sports is baseball. Not playing it, or even watching it, though I do at times watch a televised game now and again. My love of baseball centers on listening to radio broadcasts – specifically, the announcers. I find their ability to simultaneously relate the live actions of the game, and yet fill the frequent pauses of action with stats and banter immensely interesting. Our local team is the Marlins, and I often tune in to the broadcast in the car to hear the two team announcers. Their voices are perfectly matched to me; one studious and grandfatherly, the other engaging and kind of guy-next-doorish. Ever the educator, I pointed this out to my kids as we drove home and my son agreed that it must take talent to be able to describe the game for people who have to use their imaginations to picture the action on the diamond.
Recently our homeschool support groups got an email from the Marlins offering us discounted tickets, and wanting to expose my teens to the national pastime, I bought tickets and we went to see the game. During the inning changes, the stadium showed commercials and promotions on the Jumbotron. At one point, the radio announcers came on screen. Both my son and I made the same remark; the announcers looked nothing like the people we imagined them to look like from their voices. I don’t know what image he had, but it was evident that he and I both had conjured up a different image of the men from their ‘radio voices’.
Since that revelation, I’ve been surprised to find that my previous image of the men persists when I hear their broadcast, even after seeing the men ‘in person’. It seems my mental image is stronger than the one my eyes beheld and confirmed. Perhaps this has happened to others as well in similar situations. A voice on the telephone is given a certain ‘look’; then, upon meeting there is a shocking moment when the imagined picture of the person and the visual reality of their appearance turn out to be totally opposed. And so I began to wonder; is it possible that I have done the same with my image of God? Have I heard His voice, made up an image, and yet completely mis-imagined what that voice revealed of Him?
One may claim to have a certain ‘image’ of God that they hold fast to. But what happens when a fresh revelation of His nature conflicts with the one we created from our first impressions? What happens when we have imagined God to be a loving but ultimately undemanding figure that never chastises us, and then we see through His word that He is both a loving Father and a Righteous Judge? Perhaps we see Him as a kill-joy that wants to keep us from having fun – only to find in Proverbs 16 that He has eternal pleasures at His right hand. Do we change our view of Him based on the true image He has given through His word (which also is the reliable medium of His voice) , or do we return to the image that we feel comfortable with, based on the limited knowledge we had when we first heard of Him?
The answer must lie in the consistency of His identity – the voice and the image must come from the same Being, and God being ever the same and unchanging, it is never the voice or the image that is inconsistent, but our perception of it. We hear what we want to hear, and see what we want to see of Him, and our definition can change based on which perception we feel is more ‘compatible’. My perception of the announcers ‘fit’ better to me than the reality, and I was unwilling mentally to adjust my image. In the same way, it’s an easy mental exercise to ignore the new, more challenging revelation of God’s true nature when we are faced with it, and maintain the perception that matches our own desires, rather than His. However, for those that refuse to seek His true identity on this side of eternity, it will be a temporary illusion. The Bible says that we shall all see Him as He is one day. The choice for us is whether we will alter our image now, based on the uncompromising image of Himself He has given us in His Word, or whether we will await a rude awakening when He is revealed to be everything we tried to ignore.
I must admit my first inclination is always to hold to the image of God that I am comfortable with. But when I am confronted with the verse in 1st Corinthians that eyes have not seen the things that God has prepared for me, I have to admit that my vision of God will always be inadequate compared to who He really is. I must pray that unlike my image of the baseball announcers, I will always make sure that the image of God that appears in my mind is the one He portrays of Himself, and not the one that I want him to have. The revelation of His true image will never be fully complete, because He is more than can be imagined. But if I am steadfast in seeking Him as He truly is, I can then be confident that when I reach Home, the One I will see will be the One I have heard all along.