God is the Color of Water

There are books on my shelf that will always be there, even if I never read the book again. Books that touched my heart, helped me see the world in a new way, or captured my imagination. These are the books I want to see when I walk by. Just seeing the titles there in my shelf keeps me grounded and reminds me what is most important to me.

One of those books is The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride. The quote that helps me understand God and helps me explain God in us is this,

” . . .one afternoon on the way home from church I asked her whether God was black or white”. . . . .”What color is God’s spirit?” “It doesn’t have a color,” she said. “God is the color of water. Water doesn’t have a color.”

page 50-51

God doesn’t have a color. God is the color of water and water doesn’t have a color. When I first read these words, it made me think of being at a lake in northern Minnesota and looking at my reflection in the water. Well, you could kind of see your own refection. It is not a like a mirror that reflects a clear image. Looking at yourself in water gives you a wavy image. It reflects a lot of your image, but because of the movement of the water, there are parts that will never be fully revealed.

Growing up, God was an old white guy in my mind. If Jesus was the white dude with long brown hair than God must be a white guy, too, if he is the dad of Jesus. We did sing that Jesus loved all the little children, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. But we didn’t reflect Jesus or God in any other image but white or light skinned. So reading the idea that God was the color of water meant that the image of God could reflect me as well.

One of my favorite things to do when I taught confirmation was to invite in a member of the congregation who was a world traveler to join us. In every country she visited, she would purchase a nativity set. When she came to talk to the confirmation class, we would line the sanctuary with nativity sets from around the world so the students could see the Holy Family depicted in a way that reflected the culture in which the nativity set was created. It was eye opening for me and for the students as well. If I think Jesus looks like me, than others can think Jesus looks like them.

Why do we need to think of God in a dualistic way? God as black or white. God as male or female. God as gentle or strong. God is so much bigger and more creative then what has been written in scripture.

Did you know that there are over 40,000 varieties of bean seeds in the world genebanks? 40,000 ways of being a bean. Why do we think that God would limit humanity’s ways of being to just one, best way? A way, which in America, we most often have seen as white, male, wealthy, and Christian.

There are 8 Billion ways to be human and water reflects them all. Well, water doesn’t fully reflect it. Our reflection in the wavy surface of a body of water does not fully reveal who we are, it leaves some mystery. The mystery of the presence of God who dwells in us.

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6 thoughts on “God is the Color of Water

  1. J. Matt Steinhauer says:

    I read McBride’s book way back in 2000. It was a class on Spiritual Autobiography, and I still have it on my shelf too! But it’s about to come down to be revisited. Thank you for your contribution to my continued formation on racism and white supremacy in America.

  2. Judi E says:

    I was recently told Jesus was a black man. It really made me think about how we always make things “fit” in our lives. The person was black! My God, my Jesus was always white. I love this image! Thank you for your insite. God of all colors bless you!

  3. Roger Skatrud says:

    The idea of God being the color of water is great – it takes us to baptism – the water of life for all people all colors. Thanks for the helpful gift of thinking, at a time when it is needed to clarify our thinking about all of God’s children.

  4. proceedasusual says:

    I will always be grateful that you introduced me to James McBride and The Color of Water. I still have the paper you wrote about this topic — we had a seminar type deal with Vitor. And I still have the dog-earred book. I am also grateful to learn more about your life. Even if it’s hard to hear. Your voice is sorely needed.

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