I don’t always see it when I look in the mirror . Sometimes I do. But not always. It alludes me often. When I can’t see it, I see failure. Insecurity. Lack of integrity. A ridiculously large forehead. Someone less than others. Thinning hair. Fear.
Imperfection upon disqualifying imperfection.
I believe it’s there. I’m told it’s there. I want to see it every time I look in the mirror, but those voices – internal and external – are so loud as they convincingly tell me it isn’t there.
Perhaps the best spiritual discipline to shut those voices up is to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the voice who spoke this truth.
“Then God said let us make humans in our image, in our likeness,…So God created humans in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
In the beginning, God created humans. Not just created from the edges of his imagination like creatures in a Dr. Seuss book, but purposefully designed according to what he sees in the mirror. According to his image. The imago Dei (Latin for image of God) is an inherent quality possessed by each person giving them worth, value, and dignity. To say each person bears the imago Dei is not simply a Christian nicety, but is a profound theological statement implying the mind-bending possibility that each individual uniquely mirrors the divine. If we truly believe the scriptures and what they say – that God created us in his image and that Psalm 139 is true when it says God “knit us together in our mother’s womb” – then it stands to reason God specifically placed within each one of us the ability to represent God back to the creation we were placed in.
You represent God to creation. To the trees and the stars. To children and rivers. You are the image of God.
…Can I just be honest? That is a ridiculously hard truth for me to believe about me.
Because I know me. I know where I fail. I know I can be extremely self-centered, self-absorbed, self-promoting, and all-around generally selfish. I know I am broken. When I look in the mirror I don’t see the image of God. Sometimes, and I don’t know if this makes sense, but I don’t even feel like an image of myself. I feel like I need to promote the image of who I think I am. Or who others think I am.
I’m pretty sure that isn’t the image of God.
The image of God rests on me. On you. On everyone. To see it we must be open to the possibility that it’s there. And then look around the failure, behind the fear, and over (under, around?) that massive forehead to see it looking us in the eyes. There – the image of God.
All around us are people who may not fit into our idea of what it means to bear the image of God, but yet bear that image more clearly than we imagine. God is working to restore the imago Dei in all people so we must be on the lookout for his image in even the most unsuspecting places. In the most unsuspecting of people.
C.S. Lewis says it much better.
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nation, cultures, arts, and civilization – these are mortal, and their life is to ours the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors…Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”
It’s easy to read that quote and say it’s true for others. You probably see the image of God in others more quickly than you see it in yourself.
I know I do.
But if the image of God is there for them, it is there for you. If it is there for you, it is there for me. And that gives me hope. That opens me up to the possibility that I am not my successes any more than I am my failures. It gives me hope that I am not what others say I am. It gives me hope that the very things I like about myself have been put in my being by God. It comforts me because even though I am broken, the image of God has not been taken from me.
It cannot be taken from you.
It is weaved into my very nature. I cannot be separated from the image of God anymore than I can be separated from my brokenness.
Let me say that again, but slightly different. Just because you are broken does not mean the image of God has been removed from you life.
That’s the fallacy of total depravity as it is taught in many circles. Total depravity is often depicted in such a way as to make one believe that everything about them is so broken that the image of God has been removed from their very being. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Total depravity simply means there is no part of me that has not been affected by sin. Every part of my being has been affected by sin, AND YET the image of God is imprinted on my soul so thoroughly that the Creator entered suffering to renovate his mangled image.
Redeemed. Being restored. Broken, yet holy image-bearer of the Creator God reflecting back his likeness to all creation.
That’s what’s in the mirror.