God Far and Near

READ: Genesis 1:1-2:3, Genesis 2:4-7

My mom and I were Bible study buddies.  One day we were talking about how everyone has their own door into the Scriptures.  Ma added, “Yes, just like every person has their own, unique relationship with God.”

As usual, Ma got the wheels spinning in my head.  When we talk about God, we are trying to express the inexpressible.  Any description of God reflects our own understanding, our own image or mental picture of God. 

Ordained Episcopal Priest Barbara Brown Taylor summed this up an interview on National Public Radio (NPR).  When the interviewer Terry Gross asked her what she meant when she used the word God, Taylor answered:

“When I use the word God, I am so aware I’m using a code word and that everyone who hears that word and probably everyone who uses it imagines something different, imagines a different posture in front of that being, that presence.”

I found this idea of “God as a code word” very helpful.  By one accounting, there are over 900 names and titles of God, not surprising because they represent how different people in the Bible connected with God.  But it can be quite bewildering.  What about turning this the other way around – how does God connect with human beings?  Fortunately, the first two chapters of Genesis provide a decoder ring.

The Bible provides us two distinctive portraits of God.  In Genesis 1, God is above and beyond our ability to imagine, understand, or describe.  God is a cosmic urge and intention overflowing with creative energy whose words become everything that exists.

In Genesis 2, we find a different image of God.  This God is an artisan, forming man from the dust.  This God is up close and personal, breathing life into the nostrils of Adam and making Eve from one of Adam’s ribs.  This God is earthy with muddy hands, planting “a garden in the east, in Eden.”

In thought and praise, the God of Genesis 1 inspires awe and wonder and is the one that drives me to my knees.  It is this God beyond human reach that could stretch out the universe though space and time and repeat the same patterns of swirls found in galaxies and sunflower petals.

But in times of need, I have to pray to “somebody,” someone who will hear me and show me the way I need to go.  The God of Genesis 2, the one who is as close to me as my breath, is the one I meet in prayer.

Like Jesus’ twofold summation of the Law – love God and love your neighbor – the first two chapters of the Bible give us a simple, twofold understanding of God’s interaction with each of us – the One who is beyond our grasp and, at the same time, nearby and personal.



Eternal God far and near, you fill me with the wonder of creation and the wonder that, in something so big, you come to me in my world so small.  I know I can come to you anytime, day or night, in joy and sorrow, with anything big or small and you are there.  I know I am never alone and that is the biggest wonderment of all.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Joe Bulko