Summer 2020 was a difficult three months for me.
Starting out in May, I had taken a class that made me think twice about my ministry concentration and become, for the first time, completely unsure of what I wanted to do with my life.
I was struggling with my weight and the limitations of a precancerous blood disorder, exhausted from trying to do everything and keep up with everyone, and feeling distant from God. And in the midst of all of this, I was beginning to face the fact that I have anxiety and depression.
I felt so lost. Lost and tired.
Tired of trying to be good enough.
Tired of the aching fear that has defined me and fed my anxiety and depression: that I am a monster. That deep down inside I’m really an awful, twisted, monster who God’s grace only masks.
That lie has driven me to perform, prove myself, and always know who I am to assure myself and everyone else that I really am good enough, good enough to not be a monster. That lie is the core of the lostness and exhaustion I was feeling.
And I am thankful for this past summer because in it, God showed me a truth that rescued me. This truth can be summed up in two fancy Latin words: Imago Dei.
Those words mean “the image of God,” a concept drawn from Genesis 1:26-28, 31:
“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.’
God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. Evening came and then morning: the sixth day.” HCSB
People often start the story of the Gospel with Genesis 3, how we broke God’s perfect world. Every human born after Adam is a horribly twisted, sinful creature. Jesus Christ came, died, and rose again so that anyone who believes in Him can be saved from the fate that such horrible creatures deserve and be adopted as sons of God.
But does that really change us, or are we still horrible creatures who are just being treated like royalty in some sort of cosmic act of denial?
But Genesis 1:26-28, 31 tells the story of the Gospel a little differently:
Before the Fall, humans were not just perfect beings. God created man in His own image. We were glorious beings who ruled the earth with the power of God and reflected the glory of God in every word, thought, and action.
We were very good.
And when we fell from perfection, the image of God remained in us. We are born with a twisted and marred version of that image, true. But every person reflects something of who God is.
The way you smile, the books you like to read, the calling you aspire to fulfill someday, these all reveal something of who God is.
And that is still beautiful.
Even more, God aims to make that beautiful glorious again. When Jesus came and died, He provided a way not only for believers to be saved from condemnation but to be restored to the image of God. We won’t just live forever in Heaven as horrible creatures covered up by grace. We will be restored to a majestic existence as perfect image-bearers of God and given the authority of God’s sons to rule over a perfect world.
That’s who we truly are: Image-bearers of God.
We are imperfect and sometimes act like horrible creatures, but that isn’t who we are. Grace hasn’t just covered us. It has united us in relationship with the perfect Image of God, Jesus Christ, who is even now restoring God’s image in us.
Who am I?
I am an image-bearer of God with nothing to prove, nothing to hide.
I hope you will grasp this amazing truth and find yourself free this semester too.
Free to make mistakes because they don’t define who you are. Free to be who you are and do what you were created to do because who you are and what you were created to do bring glory to the God you reflect just by being you.
You are an image-bearer of God.