After a recent meeting someone pulled me aside and asked if I was angry with him. I was surprised because not only was this person someone I liked and respected, but I wasn’t the least bit angry. After reassuring him that everything was good between us, it dawned on me what had occurred. Parkinsons has a fairly dramatic affect on facial expression, so as my meds wear off there can be a quite significant gap between what I’m feeling and what my face expresses. The deadpan look that can come across my face can quite easily be read as disinterest or displeasure.
It has given me a new appreciation for body language and how important it is in the process of communication. Which in turn got me thinking about God and the difficulties the lack of a body presents to communication with us. When you can’t see a face, observe arms folded in a distancing manner or \stretched wide with welcome, or a body facing towards you with great intent or facing away from you with great indifference, it’s difficult to know what God is really feeling and thinking.
The theologically astute among us will now expect me to launch into a spiel about Christ as the incarnation of God. But I’m not sure that helps me too much, because Christ is no longer bodily present among us. No, I draw two other conclusions from God’s lack of a body.
First, God is mysterious. I know people talk about the overwhelming love of God, but in the absence of bodily expression for me that remains a conviction rather than something that is experienced as directly and deeply as when I am held by my wife or children. God’s love is no less profound, or important, or meaningful; it’s just not as bleedingly obvious.
Second, it highlights the part we play in making God real to one another. In the opening chapter of the Bible we’re told that we bear the image of the Creator, that we represent God to each other. It’s the very fact that I am held by my children and my wife that allows me to understand what it means to be held metaphorically by God. It’s the very fact that I am welcomed by others in bleedingly obvious ways that enables me to imagine that I’m welcomed by God even if it is less bleedingly obvious.
How ironic that as I become more like God with regards to body language, I become less able to communicate God through my body language. How important it is that we use our body language in whatever way we can to articulate the glorious love of God to one another.