James Hillman once said that a good image is the most open, most exploratory, most suggestibly subtle, yet most precise thing to allow the soul the widest imagination for its complexes.
With this in mind, I would like, here, as a meditation, to submit some images of God . . . to allow the soul some imagination for its complexes.
Recently I received a letter from a young mother who described the disappointment of her little son when she had to leave home for a few days to attend a convention.
Her account of her son’s reaction to her leaving expresses a healthy motherly mixture of pride, love, delight, understanding and humor: “Andrew is three years old and is still very much mummy’s boy. He cried when I left and then when I went to hug and kiss him. He went and sat on the coffee table with his back towards me and wouldn’t even look at me. He was so mad!”
Imagine how God must feel, at times, proud as a mother, looking at us! I doubt that, in the light of eternity, our sullen pouts, our angers, our turning away and even our dramatic declarings that “God is dead” look much different than does the typical three year-old who is throwing a tantrum because mummy is going away.
I don’t doubt either that God, like the mother just described, cannot help but smile at the humor in it all. How delightfully little and silly we must appear at times.
I suspect, too, that our very littleness itself must, at times, move God’s heart to unspeakable levels of compassion. Again, let me risk an image:
A few years ago, I was visiting some family friends. Their young daughter was about five years old. At 8:30 or so, her mother put her to bed and, when she returned to the living room where we were visiting, she told me that the child would like me to go into her room and say good-night . . . and perhaps tell her a story.
I went into the room and found a child who was rather restless (since she had to go to bed by herself and miss out on all the activities that were still going on) and a bit afraid (she told me she was always afraid to be by herself, alone, in the dark).
After sharing this with me, she smiled and said: “But I have a secret that helps me!” Then, reaching under the curtain onto the window ledge above her bed, she brought down a little stuffed horse.
“He’s my secret!” she said as she kissed him and tucked him under her pillow, “nobody knows about him, except me!” Then, looking infinitely more secure and comfortable, she said good-night and I left.
I am not a man much given over to sentimentality or saccharine, but the purity of the littleness of that moment—that child, alone and restless in the dark, taking security from a cheap, small, stuffed animal, her secret horse—stirred in me a tenderness, a love, a protectiveness, and an understanding that physically wrenched my heart.
At such a moment, you see a soul, literally, and you see in its very pettiness and smallness its beauty and its largeness.
I am not sure what will happen to this young child once she trades in her naiveté and her stuffed horse for other kinds of secrets to help her calm her restlessness and to help herself in the loneliness of the night. But I am certain that God, who will always see her as a young child, will, when watching her, constantly have the same kind of tender wrenching of the heart that I experienced that night.
Our littleness, no matter what our age and what our secret horse, must constantly trigger indescribable pity and compassion within God.
Julian of Norwich whose intuitions of God most certainly provide the soul with the widest imagination for its complexes, once described the following scene:
“My mind was lifted up to heaven and I saw our Lord as a Lord in his own house where he had called his much-loved friends and servants to a banquet. I saw that the Lord did not sit in one place but ranged throughout the house, filling it with joy and gladness.
“Completely relaxed and courteous, he himself was the happiness and peace of his dear friends, his beautiful face radiating measureless love like a marvellous symphony, and it was that wonderful face shining with the beauty of God that filled that heavenly place with joy and light.”
How rarely, we truly put ourselves under the mercy! Looking at our angers, our solemn sullenness, our littleness, and the secret horses we keep to still our fears and restlessness, I suspect that God’s face must constantly radiate measureless love like a marvellous symphony