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To imagine God as some divine architect standing at the beginning of time with a blueprint in his hand, according to which all things will unfold, is to enter the boredom of a pre-determined universe and the slavery of a manipulated existence. But to recognize God as the possibility beyond the past and present, the dynamic process that invites us to co-create true novelty and to transcend our past in an undetermined future, is to enter the joy of a living relationship.

The blueprint metaphor has been used by myself and is still used by some of my favorite authors to illustrate that God is the origin of our design. Now the intentions are good: in the midst of many voices and uncertainties about who and what I am, the idea that God knows my true design is very comforting. However, the metaphor often gets pushed too far and instead of bringing clarity it obscures.

Let me explain. When applied to the relationship between God and man, the blueprint metaphor implies that God has designed and planned what humanity is… and who you are. You have no real say in this plan or in its execution, for God is your absolute origin, designer and creator and you are the passive recipient of His decision. In this context, your only contribution is to discover and to be the true self God created.

If we compare this metaphor with another, the contrast will expose its weakness. A ‘story/narrative’ metaphor is ideal for this purpose.

Plans and blueprints are predetermined; stories unfold spontaneously.

The best plans have few surprises; the best stories have many surprises.

Plans intentionally limit and close the future, but the future is open to stories.

Is God the one who predesigns who you are and determines your life, or is he the whisper of desire, inviting you to co-author the most exciting story ever told?

Can you see the contrast? To move from the conception of a God that has everything under control according to His grand design … to a God who gives up control and becomes vulnerable for the sake of an un-manipulated relationship is a very big move indeed and sure to raise some questions.

Maybe Jeremiah 29:11 comes to mind for some: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (RSV)

Again, it is how far we push the metaphor that matters. Thinking of my relationship with my children I can certainly see that I too wish for their welfare and I will plan to support their futures as far as is possible. But such good intentions will soon become overbearing manipulation if I do not allow them to make their own plans and insist that they conform to my plan.

Unfortunately this is how God-has-a-plan-for-your-life has often been interpreted – as a plan in which we have no say; as a plan to which we simply have to conform.

To be the image and likeness of God is not to conform to some pre-defined blueprint of what it means to be human, but rather, it is in our humanity that the boundless generosity, the new possibility and the joyous desire of the undefinable unfolds … and continues to unfold as God re-imagines God-self.

“ … beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be…” 1 John 3:2 NKJV

God demonstrates his vulnerability by giving us the freedom to participate in this creative process, or refuse it. This participation is not a static submission, but a genuine contribution to this unfolding creativity. Whatever plan or blueprint there might be – it is unfinished and we are invited to co-design, co-author and co-create.

As for me, it has been such a joy to let go of the omnipotent, all-dominant god and explore the all-vulnerable God of possibility.

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7 Responses to “Boundless Generosity What does it mean to be the image and likeness of God?

  1. wayne rogers on

    ‘The best-laid plans of mice and men oft go awry’ I thought should have included “god” in that much used quote of Robert Burns. For many folks trying to” follow” Christ, those plans remained a far off mystery of sorts; a kind of dangling carrot if only we kept to the narrow path. It led to a lot of praying and beseeching for “clarity, understanding, and wisdom” so we could have that “heads up” to make the right choices and decision when the time was ripe. It often led us to a very disgruntled and disquieting place. I am pretty sure most of us have gone down that rabbit hole we call the crisis of faith. Is there someone really driving this bus or did we just miss our ride because we were a little late, or heaven forbid, we rushed out ahead of the Holy Ghost. In the end I believe we were really looking and asking for a little ( or a lot) of control in how “our” lives were played out. If God had a perfect plan for our lives, why is this world such a mess? We must be doing something wrong….right?? Another rabbit hole. This concept of a pre-planned life truly can be boring, mechanistic, robotic. We make ourselves out to be more like Pinocchio with someone else pulling all the strings instead of the co-creating creatures we truly are.

    Reply
  2. Andrea on

    The beauty and truth of this message is something I could not contain. I can see with such clarity a working relationship between God and me, not just one-sided. This is a much more hopeful and loving message then the stagnated view of pre-destination. Thank you Andre

    Reply
    • Andre Rabe on

      Yes. Our concepts of perfection being immutable/unchanging has so limited this relationship. Our experience of love is that it profoundly forms us … consequently, a God who loves is deeply moved and formed by that love.

      Reply
  3. Sandy Fields on

    Wow!!! So very rich indeed! I so remember when sitting in a regular
    church service and hearing that word vulnerable – the person said that
    Jesus had become vulnerable on the cross for all of humanity- It smote
    me to the core- I mean that word vulnerable hit me hard and I knew it.
    I was never the same after hearing that word “vulnerable” and as I read
    your message I again remembered it- The purest form of love is being
    vulnerable because of what you “see” Jesus saw the Joy set before Him
    which is all of humanity in such a relationship with Him and each other
    that is spontaneous and yes vulnerable but produces such freedom to Be
    the co-creating –

    Reply
  4. Sellappan on

    Great stuff indeed!
    Controlling and manipulating is our way of handling people. That’s why our relationships are so fractured.
    God’s way, as Andre put it, is to invite us into a joyful relationship with him and to co-everything.
    Richard Rohr in his New Year message tells us: God Almighty is only 50% true; the other 50% is God All-vulnerable.
    Thanks Andre for taking us into this adventurous and infinite possibilities!

    Reply

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