I have a photo of my mom when she was fifteen. It looks remarkably like my senior portrait. (Only she was gorgeous in that way only 40's women can be. And I had Farrah hair. Because it was cool.)
I have a photo of our youngest daughter entering first grade. It looks identical to my own school photo, down to the handmade dress. Genetics rule—we end up like our parents in more ways than one.
Some find that distressing. Others have, at least, come to terms with the reality.
Last week on the blog we started talking about rediscovering our identityin 2015. What aspects of it have been hacked, like our debit cards at Target, and what can we do about it?
Image of God--Say What?
But before we can figure out how to re-find our identity, we have to know what we're looking for. If we have no real clue, how will we know if we ever stumble upon it? It's like going to the store when you're hungry but you don't have a menu plan. Everything and nothing looks good. You load up the cart with a bunch of stuff, take it home, and then find out none of it actually goes together in a meal. It's a patched together mess, and you're still hungry. What are we looking for?
Creation gives us the glorious facts—we are created in the image of God. Both male and female. No distinctions or hierarchies among humans in the perfect world. If you don't believe me, check out the story yourself.
But it's easy to say we're the image of God. To have some vague idea of what that is and that maybe it's a good thing. Yet all the time, I suspect we have an idea like that of my photos—we kind of look like God, whatever that is. We're his kids, so we resemble him in some cosmic way we don't really understand and therefore don't consider important on a daily basis.
But what if we're wrong?
What if, in fact, it's the most important part of our daily life? And we're missing it?
To be created in the image of God means a bunch of things, and none of them has to do with looks. Which is good because, honestly, how could God look like all the colors, sizes, shapes, and two genders of people? I mean, unless he's like Professor McGonagall and shape shifts whenever he feels like it. Which could be cool, but we don't exactly have a basis in the Bible for that idea.
(Well, yes, we do, He can appear however he needs to. But that's not quite the same as just deciding, “Today I think I'll be an armadillo. Tomorrow, maybe I'll want to look like Queen Latifah. Depends on how the cosmic mood swings.”)
OK, we are officially off topic.
Taking on God's Character
So, let's start with one thing it means. Being made in the image of God means we take on characteristics of God. Just like my oldest daughter can read people and have instant empathy—she gets that trait from me.
Middle child likes to surprise people she loves with grand gestures, just as I do. Like the times I redecorated my mom's entire bathroom and kitchen as gifts. Thinking back, I have to wonder if she wanted them redecorated or if she liked my choices. But at the time, I wanted to surprise her because to me, it meant an act of love. Same with middle child.
Child #3 has her father's diligence and responsibility. Good thing she got it from somewhere.
A child grows to be more and more like her parents in attitudes and behavior. She may hate it, but one day she hears that sentence come out of her mouth and she knows . . . oh my gosh, that was my mother. Sorry—true story.
Regardless of what we hear about peer pressure and media influence, parents are still the number one arbiter of what kids become. Their values become their children's values. Their reactions to life's circumstances become their children's model. From the time of birth, kids are becoming their parents. Obviously, there are differences. They are not robots. But stick with the analogy for a bit.
From the moment we are created, we should be growing to resemble God more and more. Not physically, but in values and behaviors. In the way we react to hardship or situations that would bring out the road rage in us. Our values should be becoming more and more identical to his. Love and holiness, grace and truth above all. That's the plan. That's part of what it means to be made in his image. If that was put inside us, it should be coming out.
When we mess up and interrupt that process, we have a Savior who promises to remake us so we can begin again. (“If anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation.”)
We are a people called to mirror his character into a crazy world.
Sometimes, that means taking a hard look in our own mirror and asking—hey, is this really a good reflection?
- Does this life, this daily thing I do here, the decisions I make, reflect meaning? Or are they reflex, plans auto-accepted because they are comfortable and “normal”?
- Does this person I see reflect a belief that I am here for a reason? Or do I more often live day to day, waiting for life to happen, accepting myself as a victim of circumstances, uncommitted to responsibility of being an heir to the King?
- Do my reactions reflect who God says he is? Or am I more likely to react like a person who has no experience at all of the mercy of Christ when angry, frustrated, confused, or scared?
- Does my life reflect that God created everything to work with order and purpose? Or is the chaos in my own existence showing something entirely different?
- Does it look like God orders my life? Or do I allow my schedule, other people, or the tyranny of the urgent to be the boss of my days?
- Does this face, and heart, offer love before all else? Or is it too often something I expect others to earn?
- If I don't like the reflection, what needs to change?
Heavy questions for a cold day in January. But January is a perfect time for questions. Everyone else is reexamining. There is nothing else to do while watching the snow and hiding from the cold. Why not? Be brave. Ask the hard questions.
God, how will I, your image, reflect it better in 2015?
Next week--what else does that image in us mean? It means not only a new character but a new job. An adventure, hobbit lovers everywhere! Stay tuned.