A Voice in the Shadowlands

Imago Dei

Most everyone has a favorite Bible verse or several. I’ll admit that my all-time favorite is Galatians 2:20, “For I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. This life that I now live, I live through faith in the Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me.” These few sentences are packed with power, and I love the power of words. Still, as dear as that verse is to me, there are other verses that I go to at different times.

When I need comfort or a feeling of worth (something that, if I’m honest with myself, I struggle with in cycles though, thankfully, not as much in years past), I look to another verse entirely. It’s not something as simple and lovely as “God is love.” As mind-blowing as that one little sentence is, I have a hard time garnering comfort from that in my dark times. When life is good and I am utterly contented, I can revel in it, but in my darker moments the words fall flat in my ears. “God is love.” Well, duh. God is love because that’s what he is. And if that’s what he is then it’s what he has to do. I know I need to change my interpretation of those verses, but until I can force my mind to do that, it sounds more like textbook definitions and contractual obligations. No, for little, twisted me I go to something much earlier in the Bible, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” Genesis 1:26a

Weird, I know? Why the heck would this be what I cling to in my own private struggle for meaning and existence? Well, a few things. God decided that he would create us. Creation is personal. You put a bit of yourself into whatever you make and it’s something that you feel has some sort of worth. So, just the very fact that I exist means that God felt that I was worth making. That helps wrangle my elusive self-worth. Aside, from the simple fact that God created me, though is the fact that I was created in God’s image. Now, theologians and scholars have argued about all sorts of things over this verse. One of the first is what is the difference between image and likeness? Most scholars I am familiar with tend to settle on the idea that being made in God’s image is something that is innate with creation. No one can escape the fact that they were created in God’s image, what we do have a choice in is how much we are “like” him. That is our personal choice as to how much we emulate our Creator.

What there seems to be very few across the board agreements about is what exactly does it mean to be made in God’s image. Some say that this is a reference to the fact that God can exercise his will and it is this very natural but very powerful trait that humans share with God and sets us apart.  When I was little, I used to think that it meant that somehow God sorta looks like we do, only without the body but still in my mind, I was always kind of expecting a Michelangelo-esque older guy with a fantastic beard because everyone in the Bible had fantastic beards. To me and my theatrical, dramatic, artsy-fartsy self, my current interpretation (Sidebar: I love how as you grow and experience more of life your understanding of verses changes with those seasons…and now back to your regularly scheduled program) is that we reflect God’s creative self.

Humans are a creative bunch, and not just in the visual arts. While some people are drawn to paint or to plan out choreography, others are drawn to architecture, to play with numbers (which completely escapes my understanding) and come up with theories of economy or a budget. We are driven to leave our fingerprint somewhere on something somehow. What’s amazing is God does all of them. Sunsets are ever changing paintings, the changes in formations of migrating birds can come across as an aerial Cirque de Soleil performance, nature in itself is like God reveling in architecture and a nautilus shell, with it’s recurring Golden Ratio is a mathematicians dream. And me? I play with words. There’s always been a power to words that I love and who better to have as a muse than the author and inspirer of the greatest written work ever?

So, there you have it. When I feel tiny and insignificant I remember that the greatest Creator allows me to echo that in just a minimal way. In some weird way, I feel like I’m being allowed in on the greatest collaboration ever and that has the ability to lift me up out of the slough of despond.

What about ya’ll? What does it mean to you to be made in Imago Dei? What do you think of? Do you think of it? It’s not homework…I’m just curious.



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