Perhaps you’ve heard the anecdote of the child who cried out for comfort in the night. When the parent arrived, the child was assured, “Don’t be afraid. God is right here with you.” The child responded, “I know, but I need somebody with skin on.”
Comfort with skin on. This is not an unusual human yearning.
A friend recently prompted me to dig out a book from my home library, a book I cherished as a child, and recently recovered by purchasing a copy through a reseller. It is The Golden Bible, illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky, published in 1946, the year I was born. In it are more than fifty stories from the part of the Hebrew scriptures that I’ve always known as the Old Testament. The entire book is filled with colorful and evocative illustrations that made the drama of the Bible come alive to me.
On the cover, “God” of the Creation Story is pictured as an old man with a white beard, aloft on a cloud of cherubs. Just above this central figure, “God” is also pictured as a figure shrouded in something like a sheet emerging from behind dark clouds. Presumably this is the “Holy Ghost.”
I don’t remember how or when I determined that God is NOT an old man with a white beard looking down from a cloud. In any event, my theology never got stuck in those literal and pictorial depictions I so loved as a child.
Now, as I hope you can discern from other writings on this blog, I trust in God who is both a mystery beyond comprehension and a presence nearer than breathing. The Christian story of incarnation, redemption, and eternal love brings me the revelation of God with skin on. And that skin, with respect to the care of other human beings, is mine.
You are the butterfly whose wings
stir up a rainfall in Peru.
The tropic fern unfurled that brings
an earthquake in Tibet is you.
The cry bursting from blackbirds’ throats
that turns the tide on Iceland’s shore
is you, and Sahara’s dusty motes
rosing the sunset in Lahore.
Who is the breath of an infant’s sigh
that sparks the heart of a unicorn?
The rock streaking the moonless sky
that wafts a feather around Cape Horn?
You, the invisible silver thread
between Zanzibar and Amsterdam.
Even by thought unlimited,
whatever the you may be, I am.