I stopped believing in the God I’ve been taught. Yep, I did; I lost his number. You know the one, the big, masculine, white-haired fellow lying on a bed of clouds and naked people. I also broke ranks with the haloed one standing with outstretched arms, engulfed in a sea of clouds. What about the one seated at the top of a lofty staircase, glowing brighter than the human eye can stand, you say? I relinquished that image, too.
Now to be perfectly clear, I did not break up with God. I just stopped believing in Michelangelo’s God long enough to wonder and imagine for myself. After all, how could any one of us possess enough certainty to impose a singular image of sovereignty upon another?
At first, I was wary of being so divergent on such a primordially convergent issue. It’s a big deal, especially in western culture, where our major religions are pretty committed to traditional thought and ideals. But then, I realized my imagination could not give me anything less verifiable than the imagery I had already accepted without challenge. Therefore, I am no longer willing to embrace an off-planet God relatable to only a particular type of human being. I chose to use my creative thinking skills to find a God to which I can relate.
Using visionary thinking, I took a journey into my liminal space. It’s what Lauren Artress, author of The Path of the Holy Fool, describes as the place “where the faculty of imaginative perceptions opens, expands, and beholds the Divine.” Here, I opened up to perceiving the Divine as vibration flowing through and within every part of creation great and small — even as this luminous, misty, effervescence contains everything. And I do mean everything because as I played with ideas of a diffused rather than embodied Creator, I could imagine everything and everyone, known and unknown, manifested and yet possible held there with equal value. But what I didn’t imagine was a face. I imagined a pulsating, pervasive creative energy.
I realize my approach was, in some way, common. I was seeking to create a God to whom I could relate because relating to the world within, without, and beyond us is one of the most fundamental needs of each of us. According to early ego developmental theorist Jane Loevinger, we create stories to tell ourselves in order to make meaning of our experiences. As creative beings, it’s a part of who we are. Why should our experience with God be any different?
Yet, in another way, I realize my creative approach is unique. In a 2018 study led by Kurt Gray, Associate Professor in Psychology and Neuroscience at UNC-Chapel Hill, researchers collected the responses of 511 American Christians. In the study, participants agreed to view randomized images and pinpoint the one meeting their perception of God. The findings of the study suggested that people generally imagine God with egocentric bias. The test takers picked pictures of a God who seemed to reflect their political leanings and demographics. Conservatives tended to see a strong white male as the face of God; liberals were more likely to want a God who is neither white nor male. People of color wanted a God with melanin, and young people wanted youth. Apparently, we each need a God who is relatable, willing to have our backs, and will make our world compatible with us.
Universal needs are universal truths. It is a universal truth that we each have the capacity to create the inner condition of our lives. As such, we’re choosing and creating our reality at all times and all levels. It’s important we know this. We should know the power and limitations of this capacity. Why? Because it stands to reason that should we vigilantly notice that we create the lens through which we see and often project onto the external world, we might also be sensitive to understanding the many worlds being projected around us. It’s the universality within our differences. It could be a game-changer. It could be world peace.
How Creativity Changed My Image of God and My Worldview was originally published in Creative Enlightenment on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.