I've probably told this story before but I remember a specific night when I was in Kindergarten after saying my prayers and having the lights turned out, that I lay in my bed and was suddenly shocked by the thought that my classmates across the street or on the next block or somewhere in a house I'd never seen were doing the same thing, or something different altogether. For the first time I understood that people actually existed when they weren't with me. Before that--in my five-year-old brain-- people mattered, even breathed, only in relation to me. Even as I write about it now, I can remember the bed where I was sleeping with the padded vinyl headboard, and my sister in the twin bed beside me. I remember wanting to go out into the living room past the bathroom, to ask my parents to help me understand, but I knew better. An iron-clad rule in our house was NEVER to get out of bed. So I just lay there and thought about it. Began the long journey toward really understanding that I wasn't the center of the world, nor even the center of what I thought of as my own life.
And toward to poing where I was asking the great "Why" which that understanding begs. Before too many years, I was--as most of us do--tackling the question "Who am I?" Why was I made? There are many ways to answer this. Science does a bang up job of it, and what we were taught in our health classes has a lot to do with the science of it. The physiology of our make-up, male and female. And with morals: the right and wrong ways to act accordingly. But though those were/are good questions to ask (and betters answers to follow), they weren't the questions that troubled me. Nor, I suspect are they the questions that trouble most of us even when we know all those answers long past the days of sex-education. We lower ourselves by defining who we are in animal, societal, political, ways. Even, sadly, like we're natures's mistake, accidentally evolved over time when all of life was banged into place like a giant popping of a cosmic balloon. However, Who am I? is still the fundamental question at the heart of every human, and answering that question draws us as a revelation says we are fashioned in God's image. Crowned with glory and honor because, we're related to God.
As magnificent as mountains, as wild as a stormy sea, as captivating as a field of tulips all are, only humans can answer, "We are made in the Image of God." That's who we are. Made in the Image of God. I use this phrase often because I never want to forget that it's true. Even at the worst of moments, even when life is crashing down around me like a castle built on sand, I am made in His image. And without this revelation, we are left like me before I knew there were any other people in the world, left lonely, isolated and ignorant of what we're made for, and who we're made by.
But what does "Created in His Image" actually mean? I was reading through my Old Testament Theology course lecture tonight (after Downton Abbey--love that show!!!) and came to Bruce Waltke's brilliant exposition of this section of Genesis 1. I'm quoting liberally from my notes, and can't be sure what he said and what I paraphrased, so just know these are Walkte's ideas, and they're informed my thoughts ever since. So image. .
a. It refers to something concrete. Real, the whole thing (as used in the OT--the word here is selem and is used 16 times)
b. It's a faithful and adequate represented. We know what God is like by ourselves. So we can fellowship, have communication. (See Psalm 94: 9)
c. Possesses the life of one being represented. Putting life/breath into image. Like Michaelangelo--God in act of putting life into Adam
d. Represents the presence of the one being represented. We represent His presence. Think of this, WE represent the PRESENCE of GOD.
e. entails Kingship--the functional approach. In ancient near East, only the King is in the image of God. In OT, we all are.
This is who we are. Look in the mirror. Look into the face of someone you love. Look into the face of someone whom you can barely tolerate. Each one is made in His image. Whether they know it or not, whether they've welcomed him in or not. His real, concrete presence dwells, and has since they were given life. And when you're thinking about/praying for those whom you can't imagine EVER coming to HIM, remember that because every human was made in His image, they also have him within them. Maybe locked in a closet, but He's there. And if He's there, when you're praying for their lives from the outside, you're joining HIS prayers deep within them.
Made in His image, His real presence in everyone you meet. Even if you only thing of them when they're right in front of you. He thinks about them every minute because each of us is His real Image.