Don’t Minimize the Amazing

Photo credit: Sarah Beth Van Alstyne (

My daughter Riley is a senior in high school, and she asked her school counselor to write a recommendation for her college applications.  In our school district, when a student requests a recommendation, the parents must fill out a questionnaire about their student to help facilitate the process.  These questions included such gems, as “Describe the assets/characteristics that will set your child apart from thousands of college applicants.”  And, “What do you consider to be your child’s most outstanding personality trait?  Describe a situation in which this trait was evident.”  We also had to describe what made us most proud of our child with anecdotal evidence, our child’s role in our family, and the areas in which our child has shown the most growth in the past few years.  No pressure, parents, it’s just your child’s future on the line.

I avoided the questionnaire for about a week until Riley told me I had to get it done.  I wasn’t simply procrastinating though.  I was intimidated by the task before me.  How was I supposed to encapsulate my daughter’s personality?  I think she’s wonderful, amazing, and awesome, but I’m sure every other parent believes that about their child too.  I needed to detail the specifics that set her apart, but how could I choose from her outstanding qualities?  I love this girl and believe so strongly in all of her good and beautiful characteristics.  I finally put together answers for the form, but I felt agitated by the whole concept of reducing her wonderful being into small sound bites.

While I was troubled by the idea of capturing my daughter’s best traits in a few words, I think we do it all the time when it comes to God.  We try to make God as small and digestible as possible.  We say we worship an infinitely powerful God, but then we try to shrink God into our small boxes.  We ask God for simple rules, easy answers for complex problems.  We want God to fix it without asking what God wants us to do to help.  We fail to remember that God is the source of imagination, creativity, and inspiration.  God’s ability to love is greater than we can comprehend, but we often act as though God only loves and approves of the same people we do.   

In Ephesians, the writer prays for the church members and concludes by saying, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!” (Ephesians 3:20).  Instead of assuming that God shares our limited human view, we can choose to believe that God is a willing and powerful participant in our lives and community.  

I didn’t enjoy minimizing the multi-faceted nature of my daughter.  I don’t want to do that to God either.  Instead of reducing God to trite, simplistic slogans, let’s choose to bask in the expansive wonder of our amazing God.   

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