Backlit by the bright light of the harvest moon, he walks with the regal gait of a king. Several attendants anxiously scuttle behind him waiting for a motion – a nod, a gesture, or an indication of his intention, but he makes none. His thick blond mane, undisturbed by their anxiety or the night’s gentle breeze, flows rhythmically behind him keeping perfect time with his cadence. Focused solely on the pinnacle of the familiar mountain, his eyes never wander and his resolve never wavers.
Summiting the mountain, he stands before the silent sea of people gathered below. He raises a fist.
The people wait. They don’t speak. They don’t breathe.
Suddenly, the wind rushes in and the sky growls with thunder. Lightning zigzags atop the summit ridge frightening the masses below. Women scream and cling to one another in familiar terror. Violent convulsions grip the mountain while belching molten lava spews into the electrically charged atmosphere. Another dramatic lightning bolt flashes across the mountaintop painting him in silhouette. The splash of light briefly highlights his grip on a large, heavy hammer while his eyes flash fire. He wields the hammer with the power of a champion and the anger of the ages. Justice will prevail. As he drops the hammer, pointed lightning bolts instantly fill his hands, and he hurls them into the huddled crowd. Many people are instantly electrocuted. The survivors quiver in fear.
Finally, he opens his mouth to speak and the people draw back. “By the power of grayskull…I have the power!” he roars.
Oh, wait. No. That’s not right. God never said that. I mean, Thor never said that; it was He-Man. Sorry, I mixed my Marvel-phors. Uh, metaphors.
I don’t know about you, but I grew up reading comic books. When my family lived on an Air Force Base in Spain, we didn’t watch much TV because it was all in Spanish. Instead, we read comics. The highlight of our week was a trip to the San Pablo AFB newsstand to buy the latest issues. Sandi, Randy, and I took our weekly allowance to the Spanish vendor who sat just outside the base cafeteria and we’d swap our fifteen cents for the latest Archies, Batman, Spiderman, or Thor comic book. The vendor would then stamp his little purple star in the upper left hand corner to prove we bought them, and we’d rush back to the car to lose ourselves in the halls of Riverdale High or some terrifying place out there in the universe.
To be honest, I haven’t thought much about Thor since. He came to mind again yesterday when I was thinking about the kindness of the Lord. Strange, I know, but he did. I was reading Romans 2:4, “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” After reading the passage I did what I normally do – I stopped reading to allow God to speak. As I thought about the “kindness of the Lord,” I wondered if I actually viewed him as “kind” or as something else.
The more I prayed and tried to recount God’s kindnesses toward me, the more I realized (to my horror) that my early mental model of God the Father was etched into my heart by Marvel Comic Books! When I was young, God acted and operated much like Thor, the Norse god of thunder, lightning, and storms. God was always raging about something and angry at his own people for their sin. Just as Thor’s “god-blast” could wipe away friend or foe alike, so too, might God if I wasn’t careful. Thor’s eyes were fierce and flaming fire; so were God’s. Thor was known to wrestle gargantuan serpents, and when wounded; he had the ability to regenerate body parts and return to life. Hmmm…
Add a Biblical passage like Daniel 10:5-6 to my Marvel mental view of God and it’s easy to see how my childhood paradigms morphed into one confusing mess:
“I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a certain man dressed in linen, whose waist was girded with a belt of pure gold of Uphaz. His body also was like beryl, his face had the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a tumult.”
No, not at all. God is not some subjective ogre out there whose sole purpose is to condemn and destroy me; he’s not cruel. Nor is he a father who lurks in my life waiting to spoil my fun and keep me from doing the things I love. Who’d want to follow a God like that? Not me! Despite the fact that the God I’ve known and loved all these years isn’t a raging meanie with pointy teeth and hairy armpits, this is the reputation he has in some circles.
It isn’t accurate.
Perspective is everything; the God I know is kind and forgiving. He is full of grace and mercy and extends far more understanding to me for my humanity than I ever give myself. Yes, he is holy and righteous and wants me to enjoy the freedom that comes from choosing holiness for myself, but he doesn’t hurl lightning bolts at me when I don’t. He doesn’t scream at me when I fail, and he doesn’t destroy me because he’s had a bad day. That’s not the God I know.
How can I describe the Lord’s kindness without overreacting to Thor’s testosterone tantrum? I don’t want to just pull out a bunch of fluffy sheep and finger-painted pat answers, but there are some verses in Scripture that paint a drastically different picture of God’s kindness toward us that we don’t hear often in our post-Christian culture.
God has demonstrated his kindness to us by his intentional actions:
He calls us to draw near to his throne of grace with confidence!
“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
He provides salvation for us because he loves us, not because we earn it!
“But – when God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:4,5 (NLT)
His kindness leads us to change our lives, not his judgment or threat of retribution!
“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” Romans 2:4
When we turn away from our sin, we are freed from the shame and regret of it as well!
“For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10
He loves us with such a great love!
“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.” 1 John 3:1a
God’s kindness amazes me. When I leaf through the pages of my life and see his kindness written over the top of my imperfection, foolishness, and outright stupidity, I am overwhelmed by the love he has for me. His invitation to me to come before his throne of grace (not condemnation) has rewritten his biography in my heart. He is not the Marvel comic book character of my childhood. God is not Thor. Neither is he condemning, tyrannical, or unpredictable. The God that I know stepped into history to bear my sin and shame in his own body. He did that because he loves me and wanted to open the way for me to live forever with him.
What kind of God does that?
A kind one.
© Copyright, 2012 by Donna Tallman.