Identity – Who Am I Really? Maybe Kind of Made in God’s Image…
How do some people look so good – physically anyway? Starting at 4 AM, some (read celebrities) have enough people working on them to fill a NASCAR pit crew. If we did that, out 8 AM classes wouldn’t resemble a convention of caffeine starved zombies mumbling and scratching incoherently through an hour-long lecture only to emerge with notes in a dead language nobody can read. Some of us marry people who know how to dress us. Not that we need help dressing but it’s downright scary how we end up looking when we’re done. But who dresses the inside? George Herbert, a sharp guy from a few centuries back, said, “Take some time to be alone and see what your soul doth wear.”
Do I have a soul and is it wearing anything at all? Some days, if it’s there, it doesn’t feel like it. Am I just a skin bag carrying around bones and organs motored by electric impulses from the tissue computer inside my head? Reaching the end of things, the bag droops to the floor like a helium balloon finally out of gas. If I was anything, who or what was that? Secularists (not only believing but some insisting there is no God) claim that’s all there is so what does it matter? Can I live with that? Does that get it for us?
I’ll bet not.
In the Bible, God comes out of the chute like a racehorse at the Kentucky Derby. He invokes a torrent of cosmic creativity. Even the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:2) hovers over things as if to ponder, “Where do we make the first cut, paint the first stroke, and write the first line?” Collaborative work usually falls out in layers (days or epochs) so after the sun, moon, heavens, earth, seas, land, sea slugs (among others), iguanas (among others), God says, “Let us make man in our own image…” (Gen. 1:26) God, as revealed in the Bible, ain’t no skin sack…so what’s this? First, it’s not literally a physical image. He doesn’t look like me; I don’t look like Him. Nobody would believe a God who looks like me…or you. Chew on these.
It means we’re hardwired to know and be known by God. We can’t get away from the spiritual. Sometimes it takes on weird shape and directions. We squeeze the things of our days to extract drops of it on our tongue. We get disappointed, burned, cheated, betrayed, disillusioned but sparks still flash under our ashes. Vince Gilligan, creator and executive producer of the hit show “Breaking Bad” and an agnostic said, “Atheism is just as hard to get your mind around as fundamentalist Christianity.” He still wants to believe that “there is more than just us out there. If there is no cosmic justice then what is the meaning of it all?” It’s good that Mulder and Scully are back because a lot of us still sense “The truth is still out there.”
It means we can give and receive love. The heart craves love more than our lungs scream for air. In love we find the perfect pitch to which our heart-strings must tune. Our culture resonates with its pursuit; our music and movies drip with it. How to find it, keep it, keep from losing it and how miserable I am now that I did. Or I’ll never have it so that makes me a tub of hot nothingness. Our best shots at love relationships implode often wounded by our own hand although we may not realize this until later. Maybe betting all our love chips on a person comes as a right move falling short. Michael Green once said, “Once we say we believe in God, it doesn’t matter what we think about Him. We’d better find out what He thinks about us.” What if, beyond time, there’s a Face, a Mind, a Heart that can hang the cosmos on His wall like a DaVinci – and every time He thinks about us, He smiles?
It means we can manage our surroundings, learn and simply enjoy thinking. If human beings come as the crown of creation, then the human mind is the jewel topping the crown – the cherry on the sundae. This explains human magnificence apart from any belief in God or not. It explains Einstein, Lincoln, Frank Lloyd Wright, Aristotle and other monuments of human achievement but is not limited to them. Check out the men in our town library holding the New York Times with fingers protruding from worn gloves. People think; they just don’t always treasure it as they should. Something good swirls in us when we do. It can happen in a tractor seat chugging across a black soiled, newly thawed cornfield in an early Iowa spring. Grandma did it standing over a sink staring out a back window or while her fingers danced over what would be a quilt.
It means we can create whether we can draw a straight line or not. God is a creator and so are those created in His image. It explains Pablo Picasso, Duke Ellington and Johann Sebastian Bach. It also means that a security guard at a university art museum, invisible to everyone, can write a one man play about Vincent van Gogh and can perform it for his friends. It means that parents of an autistic son can defy all the nay sayers, can spend countless hours finding new ways to insure that their son learns, grows up to take a job while in college, goes on geological field trips all over North America and will earn a degree in what he wants to do. Problems make opportunities for being creative. We can find new ways to get papers done, squeeze work in around our classes, etc. The touch of a creative God knocks around inside us.
It means we can know satisfactions and happiness, although incomplete and often fleeting, in the midst of a broken world without indulging in naive narcissism toward that brokenness. After finishing all initial creative work, God proclaimed it “very good” and rested (Gen 1:31, 2:2). Unless our Bible is extremely thin, the story doesn’t end there. God’s knowing this didn’t stop him from experiencing genuine satisfaction with his work. We do not look at much in our lives proclaiming it “very good” – but it’s there. We’re too busy tearing ourselves down or pressing ourselves to do more, work harder. Even in a world with so much gone wrong, not everything is. But much is. And even our deepest satisfactions fade and rust. What then? Could even these be signposts standing in the debris field of a broken world that there is something else? C.S. Lewis once said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” It’s something to think about. If anyone would like to dig a little deeper on this, here is a good place to start. Hearts and Minds Books will give you 20% off if you say you saw it here. (Buying local is a Kingdom thing.)
So why am I not seeing and sensing all this? This isn’t all we are on the inside. There’s more and it’s not fun to look at; we already know this. That’s why we work so hard to keep it quiet, to not see it. Someone asked a friend if he’d ever removed that internal engine cover of his van. “Never’, he said, “nothing good ever comes from looking in there.” Worse can come from not looking. Next time we’ll look at why, if on the inside we’re made in God’s image (assuming I might believe in Him), it doesn’t show through more. Something else is afoot and we’ll track it down.
Got a question? I have answers. But if my answers don’t match your questions, I’ll make something up! Seriously, if we have questions about the following/knowing God thing, feel free to write at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any question. Any time. About anything. You don’t even have to include your name. I do reserve the right to reply with qualifying questions of my own so I can dignify your question with a decent and respectful answer.
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