Ever since Adam and Eve hid in the garden, we humans have been coming up with ways to make sure God doesn’t get too close. As we’re still discussing words and phrases that may misrepresent God, I thought we should look at those we use to keep him at a distance. Those of us who are a little older remember hearing God spoken of as the man upstairs. People don’t say this much anymore but they still think of God as being “in heaven,” somewhere out there and far away. Even though it’s used in the Lord’s prayer, thinking of him as only residing in heaven also works to do this. Sometimes using reverential language meant to exalt him can make us feel he keeps his distance from us.
While God is holy and “other” from us, he is not out in space somewhere. He’s right here, as close to us as our own heartbeats. We make a mistake when we relegate him to someplace other than beside us, before us, above us, below us, in us (to paraphrase the meditation of St. Patrick). Or, perhaps as has been portrayed in some of my favorite Star Trek episodes, he occupies the same space in another dimension. Well, not quite I suppose, but it might help to think of him in a similar way.
We who understand how close God is, can, through the way we speak of him, help others understand that he’s not the man upstairs or the God who is far off and observing us from afar. Rather, he’s closer than we realize and desires to be even closer, as close as we’ll let him.