Michelangelo’s vision of God on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
When I was a child, I had a picture of who God was and what He thought of me. I have since changed my thinking, but then I saw Him as an old man, with great strength and physical power – kind of like a super hero, yet I’d been taught He was more like a loving Father, with enough power to overcome any problem.
I imagine Michelangelo used that interpretation when painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Certainly, he was a believer in God. His devotion is evident in the work he was commissioned to do for the church, but did Michelangelo see God as angry and accusing as I did? A child’s vision of the Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent can be very frightening if we don’t factor in the very great love that He has for His creation.
It took me many, many years to see that side of God. I was raised in a conservative Christian church. I went to parochial schools. I learned the Catechism, studied the Bible, was well versed in the Ten Commandments, but I couldn’t understand how this amazing God could love a worm like me.
Maybe it was partially because I had a very strict father, who bore a similar demeanor to that Michelangelo rendition of God. Maybe it was because I never felt worthy of forgiveness. Maybe it was some deep seeded sin that ate away at me, which I couldn’t forgive myself. It might have been a law preaching pastor who scared the bejeebers out of me. His fiery words of hell and damnation far outweighed the beauty of the ending Gospel message – “but by the grace of God you are saved.”
Whatever the reason, those years set the stage for my future walk with God. Each of us has a turning point – when we actually get it – when we realize there is nothing we can do to achieve our own salvation – when God gets through our tough shell of resistance and puts us on the right track. It might be an awakening like Martin Luther realized as he struggled to try and please God. Maybe it’s a “Road to Damascus” experience like Saul lived through before his conversion. It could be the words of a hymn or a Bible passage.
Fearing the Lord, to me meant being afraid of Him instead of being in awe of Him. I thought that if He knew me so well, He knew how bad I was. If He was always present, He would see me do something I shouldn’t do. If he was omnipotent, He could wipe me off the face of the earth with a single word.
Thankfully, God didn’t give up on me. All the things I had been storing away in my memory bank for those early years, became useful to me as I found my way to Him. You see, God has already found us and accepted us. When He looks at our hearts, He sees Jesus and not our sinful selves.
Laying a strong foundation is an essential gift parents can present to their children. It’s based on God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Even if they don’t get it right away, the Word has power to turn them back some day. We owe it to them to lay the groundwork.