If someone asked you to describe God, what words would you use? Loving? Powerful? All-knowing? Merciful? Just? Patient? Wise?
Would you ever choose the word whimsical? Maybe not. Whimsical is not the first word most people think of when describing God. But isn’t that word perfectly appropriate? I think so. To prove my point, I have chosen five synonyms for the word whimsical. For each word I will give examples of how God (and Jesus!) manifest each quality.
Playful: In the creation story in Genesis, God displays playfulness by speaking everything into existence. “Let there be light,” God says and then ends up creating millions and billions and trillions of stars. When it came to stars, God got carried away. Maybe star-creating was simply fun. In a similar vein, God did not create only one type of fish. No, God playfully produced trout, octopus, eel, brill, carp, zander, welk, red snapper, walleye, tuna, seahorse, orange roughy, grouper, perch, king crab, halibut, garfish, tilapia, shark, John Dory, oysters, flounder, the psychedelic mandarin dragnet, and… you get the idea, right? There are over 34,000 recognized species of fish in the world—with more being discovered every day! Creating fish must have been fun for God!
Jesus was playful too. One proof: He loved parties. Didn’t he work his first miracle at a wedding reception? Jesus also had the amazing ability to attract all kinds of people. If he had been a sourpuss or a keep-your-nose-to-the-grindstone sort of man, would so many people have flocked to him? In addition, Jesus said, “Unless you turn and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:3). And we all know, one of the chief qualities of children is their playfulness.
Imaginative. Imaginative people possess great creative powers and resourcefulness. When it comes to the Creator’s imagination, think penicillin and manure. Only an imaginative Creator could have hidden healing powers in mold. Only a resourceful Creator could have given manure the power to enhance fertility. As for Jesus, one way his imagination is shown is his use of metaphors for the Kingdom of God. He compared it to all kinds of things: a Wedding Feast, a dragnet teeming with fish, a tiny seed evolving into a lush tree, a grain of wheat bursting open with new life beneath the soil, and the undetected yeast causing the dough to rise.
Unconventional. Whom did God choose to be his Chosen People? Not some powerful and numerous nation. No, God chose a small, insignificant group of people, the Hebrews. Whom did God choose to be the mother of Jesus? Again, a simple young girl from a podunk village called Nazareth. Similarly, Jesus was born not in a mighty palace with lords and ladies for company. No, he was born in a stable with a few farm animals as his “stable mates.” Jesus was unconventional in his teachings too. He did not say, “Love your friends; hate your enemies”—which would have been conventional wisdom. No, he said, “Love everyone—including your enemies.” How unconventional is that?
Fluid. Whimsical individuals know how to go with the flow. If it rains on their picnic, they dance in the rain. If snow prevents them from driving anywhere, they flap out snow angels in the backyard instead. When the dinosaurs were wiped out, God went with the flow. The death of the dinosaurs did not mark the end of animal life. In fact, their extinction allowed the small mammals (including our ancient ancestors) to flourish. God went with the flow when King Saul did not pan out as leader of the Israelites. He (unconventionally) selected the young shepherd boy, David, to rule instead.
Jesus went with the flow regularly. He did not wait to find perfect people to be his apostles. He went with the flow of ordinary humanity. He didn’t set up an office for the people to come to him. No, he went with the flow of daily life and met people in the marketplace, along the side of the road, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, in the synagogue, at the village well, and in peoples’ homes.
Entertaining: Whimsical individuals are entertaining and amusing. When my Dad was about 80, he told me one day, “I could never get bored with life. There’s so much to learn and experience.” Dad was close to nature his entire life. You could say, he was constantly being entertained by God’s whimsical handiwork—whether Dad was trying to grow Carpathian walnuts, or planting a pink dogwood in the side yard, or mushroom hunting in the woods, or simply admiring a beautiful sunset.Jesus was entertaining too. The proof? He was an excellent teacher. And as someone has wisely said, good teachers are part entertainers. Jesus entertained people especially with his stories—while, simultaneously, imparting unforgettable lessons. In his parable of the Good Samaritan, he amusingly makes the “bad guy” the “good guy.” He proclaims that the poor widow, by dropping her two small coins into the temple treasury, is the most generous giver of all. Other times he entertains with surprising statements: Behold the lilies of the fields… blessed are the poor… the last shall be first… turn the other cheek.
Did anything in this reflection speak to you today? If so, what and why?
What words would you choose to describe God or Jesus? Why?
Do you share any of the whimsy of God? If so, give a few examples of when you’ve been whimsical. How does being whimsical make you feel?
PS: As I type this, my blog is still not accepting responses. Honest, someone is working to resolve this problem. Meanwhile, I’m sorry for the inconvenience!
PS #2: I’m giving a virtual Advent retreat day on Saturday, Dec. 11 sponsored by the Franciscan Retreat Center in Bethlehem, PA. The theme is “Unwrapping the Gifts of Advent: Peace, Courage, Beauty, and Hope.” The retreat begins at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and ends at 4:00 pm. Click here for more details: https://stfrancisctr.org
We’re living through some very challenging times: a global pandemic, a vital election, natural disasters… As we continue to be united in prayer, we take a break from the headlines to enjoy a video of some fanciful flowers… I hope these flowers bring you joy as they nourish your trust in our Whimsical Creator, our Imaginative Jesus, and our Fluid Holy Spirit.
Please feel free to respond below to anything in this blog.