This is the start of a series where I return to older things I have written and didn’t finish, or they got absorbed into another thing, shedding some of the nuggets of thought that may have been interesting to return to. I will leave the abandoned draft as I found them and continue thoughts in another color.
“You are just like your father!”she said with more than a touch of annoyance in her voice. She was right in some respects, whether by biology or by learned behavior I have some of my dad’s less than complementary responses to set backs in home improvement projects. I am like both of my parents in some ways, I bear my mother’s face shape, but the eye color of my father’s family. I am prone to run most of my thoughts and decisions through my emotion like my mom, but can organize thoughts and think of spacial items in my head like my father. I could go down the list, but I won’t bore you.
In Genesis, God says, “let us make humanity in our image, male and female in our likeness.” Imagio Deo, in God’s likeness, this likeness has intrigued theologians through the centuries. What is it about humanity that reflects an image of God? During the enlightenment the answer came much like Des Cartes’s philosophical foundationalism, “I think therefore, I am.” And great supremacy was put on humanities ability to reason, and it became the common way to speak of what in us is the reflection of God. The problem comes in when we note that their are those whose lives do not include the ability to reason, either by illness or disability or accident, but we seem to instinctively know that they are still image bearers. By hinging the image of God on a attribute that it’s not shared by all humanity we do damage, looking only for God in our perceived “normal” expression of humanity, and by doing so create idols in which God is made in our normalized image.
So what if this image bearing? Why note that we when have a passing resemblance to the Divine? I think that the reason it may be important is for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it reminds us that when we look for God in ourselves we may be clouded in our judgement. I carry with me memories, lessons and scars; and for better or for worse my sense of self has been in part constructed on those pieces. One such weakness I know of is a twenty year struggle with depression–and with it comes thoughts of shame and questions of my worthiness. At different times my view of God has been colored by these oppressive thoughts, and I have believed God to be ashamed of me and willing to punish me at a second’s notice. When I glance in I do not find an accurate reflection, and so I must ask for others to guide me to a better understanding.
Just a couple of days ago, a friend and mentor of mine died unexpectedly, and in mourning his death I have been reviewing my memories of his life–and one of the things that time after time I have heard from others that knew him was his great gifting to call out where God shown brightest in you. We are creatures that were never meant to stand alone, and I think that we are to point to the truth that all humanity bears God’s image and we are to call that out in the other. Stanley Grenz built his Trinitarian theology on the idea that our reflection is in part the community that is in the Godhead and in the everyday it reminds us that we cannot exists in our fullness without being in community.