Lent – the first of the Spencer paintings in Stephen Cottrell’s “Christ in the Wilderness” shows Christ waking from sleep to pray. Now that I’ve read Cottrell’s chapter on this painting, more things strike me – all of them intensely personal.
I got the s3xual connotation, although I didn’t write about that here, but the metaphor is useful for extending my view of God – if the figure of Jesus here is an “erect male member” (sorry, really want to avoid certain searchable terms if I can) then implicitly the other half of that relationship is female. Does that matter? Only if I am particularly aware of being in the image of God – and being female myself, a certain amount of femininity of my view of God helps. And seeing s3x as another form of the dance of the Trinity also resonates – two people and God, the closest of bonds.
The other thing that really struck me was not about the intimacy of Jesus’ relationship with his “Daddy” (a reasonable translation of “Abba” in the Lord’s Prayer), but Cottrell’s suggestion for those who do not have healthy relationships with their fathers.
“…I hope that Jesus’ revelation of God as the loving parent, the one in whom we can enjoy intimacy and communion, can be received as a precious gift to release us from the harder, more limiting patriarchal images that distort the radical simplicity of what Jesus was actually teaching.”
I’ve been told several times over the years that I should understand God the Father in the light of my relationship with my father, but it just doesn’t compute for me – how do you describe a colour to someone who is colour blind? How do you describe the quality of a relationship to someone who just hasn’t ever experienced that kind of relationship themselves? Cottrell offers a different slant – not an imposition of a quality of relationship which I “should” take for myself, but a much gentler image of a gift – and and a reminder of why that gift, that image, matters. His interpretation does not impose on me, instead it frees me. Suddenly the focus is not on the quality of a non existent relationship but on the things we learn from that relationship, and on what we do with those gifts.
Intimacy with God, and with others, is a precious gift. I often don’t get it right. But somehow this Lent is reinforcing my Advent image of quiet time set aside as “a cuddle with God”. It is, as I said, all rather personal. But then, relationships are personal. Always.