All are common metaphors for God or Jesus that have been used in the Judeo-Christian scriptures. Perhaps you are less familiar with these, also taken from the Bible:
Mother. Eagle. Rock. Vine. Fire. Wind. Light. Door. Chicken. (Yes, chicken ... in Luke 13:34 Jesus says he wants to gather the children of Israel “as a hen gathers her brood under her wings”)
We describe the indescribable by comparing it to ordinary things.
It’s as if God is a giant jigsaw puzzle, so vast that we can’t see the edges, and each image of God, each metaphor, is just a little piece that maybe shows a bit of sky or the edge of a tree. Each image helps to fill in the picture, but no one piece is sufficient to show the whole. Expanding our array of images of God adds pieces to the puzzle.
God as father seems a perfect image for some people. But it can be a barrier for those who had abusive, critical or distant real-life fathers.
God as rock implies strength, solidity, something that can’t be shaken or blown away. If you feel the world is crumbling around you, there is great comfort in clinging to that rock. But you would not go to a rock for tenderness.
I have sometimes experienced God as ocean, moving in unceasing rhythm yet with hidden, still depths. As song, soaring in harmony. As electrical outlet, delivering power. As lover's embrace. As lightning's sudden illumination. As sunlight's warmth.
What images of God hold power for you? Have those images changed over time?
And since our atheist neighbors always wish to chime in on this blog, I ask that they consider this quote from theologian Gabriel Vahanian: "If anyone claims to be an atheist, I always ask, 'What God is it you don't believe in?' In other words, 'Are you a Roman Catholic atheist, a Baptist atheist, a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod atheist, or what?' From there, I probe to discover what affirmation lies beneath the denial -- and almost invariably there is a profound theological truth and a deep faith at the heart of this self-described atheist. Because what was rejected was not God but an inadequate image of God – in effect, an idol."