Three metaphors that have special value to me are listed below. One is abstract, One is practical. One is personal.
The abstract metaphor is the “Flexible Bridge.” To me, we have an unchanging God and an unchanging revelation. On the other hand, we are constantly changing and live in a world and culture that is constantly in flux. As such, we need a bridge that is connected to both… both the unchanging end and the changing end. Christ as God incarnate (God and Man) provides a flexible bridge. Additionally, between revelation and culture is theology… a flexible bridge. Flexibility is still limited by God’s nature and God’s revelation (like a strange attractor in Chaos Theory).
The practical metaphor is a “Walking Path.” To me, life is a path… a path of walking with God. Adam and Eve, Enoch were described to walk with God, and writers such as Micah (Micah 6:8) and other passages describe life’s journey as walking with God. Jesus, additionally, described choices in terms of a narrow or wide path. To me this describes several things in a powerful way. Relationship with God is relational (Amos 3:3). It also suggests that life finds meaning in the journey more than the destination. Further, the Christian life finds relevance, in part, in the diverse terrains, diverse challenges, the diverse relationships that come along the way. Finally, change is good. One should change and grow… the Christian life is not a place, a position, but a path.
The personal metaphor is an “Unfinished Tapestry.” My life is made up of stories. One can view each story as a thread. There is the story of “Bob the successful” and there is the story of “Bob the failure.” There is “Bob the Hero” and “Bob the Coward.” These different stories all interrelate to each other and to the stories of others. Additionally, all these different story threads interrelate with the grand narrative of God. This interweaving creates a tapestry. As any tapestry has a pattern to it… so does the tapestry of my life. However, because I am too close to it, I am unable to see that pattern. However, I know that there are threads that are important… story threads that must be strengthened, and thickened. There are other story threads and interconnections that should be thinned or even removed.
So where is God in all of this? In the bridge metaphor… God is my foundation… my stability… the one who can be relied upon as everything else changes. In the path metaphor… God is the trailblazer… my guide… the one who knows the way I should go. In the tapestry metaphor… God is the master weaver… the one who brings everything together… making all things beautiful in His time… even if that beauty is obscured by my own perspective.
Looking at these three metaphors… there is a common theme to all of them. The theme is CONNECTEDNESS. A bridge connects to things that are separated. A path connects a starting place with a finishing place. A tapestry is the interweaving or interconnectedness of different discrete elements, creating something new and, often, beautiful.
Sin, in its essence, is disconnected… selfishness that causes not only separation with God… but with others… and even within ourselves. The fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace… etc.) are characteristics that typically lead to relationship… to connectedness.