when “being transparent” is really just complaining

It has been a challenging eight months.

Well, really it hasn’t been an easy three-and-a-half years. Between figuring out marriage, 4 pregnancies, 2 babies, 3 foster care placements, 1 puppy come-and-gone, 9-foot snow drifts, that skunk, challenges in friendships and ministry, and so. many. cats. (among other things), there’s never a dull moment at The Dahl House. Uninterrupted sleep is a distant memory and most days I feel like my mind is barely hanging on. Marriage is hard. Foster care is hard. Parenting is hard. Oftentimes, I’d rather just stay in bed and dream of the days when I drank coffee that was still hot and read books from beginning to end and remembered enough to actually talk about intelligent things with other grown-ups.


And this probably isn’t a secret to most of you. I have a high value for transparency. I’m over the Super Mom facade. I will tell the ugly truth because it needs to be talked about. I will tell you that my husband can make me angrier than anyone in the world and yet sometimes I want him to be my everything. I will tell you that I didn’t always dream of motherhood–that it’s really hard for me. I will tell you because I need to know, too, that I’m not alone. I’m not the only woman who feels constantly torn between her dreams and reality. I’m not the only mom who’s ever yelled at her kids, who’s ever done things just because she thought she was supposed to, who’s ever tried to be good enough to make Jesus notice. I’m not the only woman with a shameful past who lives redeemed and free yet sometimes still a little sad and broken. I’m not the only one who sometimes finds herself trying to make up for it all.

As women we are so prone to comparing and competing and I want to force myself to be uncomfortably transparent because it is so much more natural for me to hide and pretend like I have it all together. I’d rather you think I’m awesome than be honest and tell you that I just blew it with my kids. I’d rather you think my family has it all together than confess that lately there is little peace among the chaos.

But I choose to be real because I want you to be real with me.

Because I think being real is evidence of a life lived before the cross.

When we live before the cross, we are humbled. We see that there is no one righteous, not even one. We see that we all have a great debt.

And Jesus paid it all.

I want to live my life before the cross. And part of that is realizing I have nothing to prove to you. So I can tell the truth about the hard because God’s power is made perfect in weakness. And with Paul I will boast in the things that show my weakness (2 Cor. 12:9), to show that “the surpassing power belongs to God and not to [me].” (2 Cor. 4:7)


I’ve been starting to wonder if my transparency has merged with complaining.

I don’t think it’s a fine line to walk. I don’t think I tiptoe up to the edge of complaining and try really hard not to fall over. No, I think the way of Christ is that radical middle–the yellow and not the gray. So I started to wonder what that could look like. And I began to pray and ask God: What does it look like to be transparent about what’s hard without just complaining? Do I think I’m complaining just because people are clearly bothered by my transparency? Am I fearing people instead of fearing the Lord? Is that their problem or mine? Am I sinfully grumbling and need to change something? But what if it really is just…hard? Do I lie? Skirt around the truth?

Last week at church, my husband and I stopped on the way out the door for a quick conversation with a friend holding his brand new baby #3. We asked how he was doing, and while I was mostly distracted with the balancing act of two two-year-olds, a purse, and a diaper bag, I caught some things about rough sleep and the usual new baby hard things. As I began to push Jordan forward, ready to wave goodbye and get out the door with our stressful brood, he said something that caught me off guard: Yes, it’s hard, but you know, the blessings outweigh the hardships.

The blessings outweigh the hardships.

There it was. Answered prayer in the form of a two-minute passing conversation. The radical middle. Transparency rooted in gratitude.

Our friend did not pretend that it wasn’t hard. He told the truth. But he was awed by the blessing of the new life he held in his arms–by the life of his other two littles wiggling beside him as he talked to us–by his sweet wife who was enduring the hard with grace–and he couldn’t just stand there and complain to us in the name of transparency.

And I think his gratitude stretched beyond the tangible blessings surrounding him. I think this friend realizes that even if life is hard, even if everything is going wrong, if he has Christ, he has all he needs.

Last Thanksgiving, I wrote about that. If I have Jesus, I have all I need.

Oh, how forgetful I am.

When we live before the cross, we are humbled, yes, but if we are only aware of our need and not left breathless with wonder at God’s gracious provision, we have not stood there long enough. 

The cross levels us all and frees us to be transparent; but the cross ought to also provoke us to thanksgiving so that every ounce of transparency is rooted in gratitude.

So we tell the truth about what’s hard, but as we do we can declare with confidence that God is Good. And it’s not a pithy platitude but rather a settled conviction that even if all seems to be going wrong, we know that God has already blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1). We know that he has promised to work all things for our good and his glory (Romans 8). And we know that he has already met our deepest need at the cross.

It’s cliche to write about thankfulness at Thanksgiving. But I’m thankful for the lesson nonetheless. And for the God who is patient enough to teach it to me over and over again.

Know Thy God, Know Thyself – and the winners are…

Lea and Noelle – check your email for info on getting your copy of Made for More.

Thanks to those of you who have been following as I’ve processed this topic for (way more than) 31 days. I hope you have been encouraged or challenged on some level. I’m sure you will continue to see the doctrine of imago dei play out in my life as I wrestle through its implications. But for now, this concludes my little series. :)


knowthyGodlogo-100pxThis post is part of my Write 31 Days series, Know Thy God, Know Thyself. To read more posts from this series, visit the Introduction here.

To learn more about the book that inspired my series, visit Hannah Anderson’s blog.



Know Thy God, Know Thyself – interview with Hannah Anderson {and a book giveaway!}

image credit: Hannah's website
image credit: Hannah’s website

I’m so excited to have Hannah Anderson on the blog today answering some questions about her book and her study of imago dei.

Leave a comment below for a chance to win one of two copies of Made for More! I will randomly select winners on Tuesday, November 18th.


What sort of changes have you seen in your life/thinking/relationships since delving into the doctrine of imago dei?

The most basic thing that has happened for me is that I find everyday life infused with a lot more purpose and meaning. I think a lot of us have these unspoken categories about what constitutes “real” living. We think that certain callings or certain work is more necessary to the Kingdom. But the truth of imago Dei undercuts all this. By the sheer nature of our existence, we are reflecting and representing God on this earth. We are doing the most profound, most radical work that we could ever do—even if we’re only doing the laundry.

I’ve also learned that living in the truth of imago Dei is not a one time event where you finally “get” it. It’s a constant process of re-examining, re-aligning, re-ordering my thoughts and actions to reflect His nature. Just when I think I’ve gotten it, I find myself struggling to live out the very principles that I wrote about. Talk about a humbling experience!

How do you see identity as image-bearers currently reflected in church involvement and discipleship? What sort of changes would you like to see?

Viewing ourselves as image-bearers changes how we understand the goal of the gospel. If the gospel is the good news of what Christ has done for His people in reconciling us to Himself, our understanding of it will be contingent to how we understand what it means to be people in the first place. When we have an expansive view of what it means to be people made in God’s image, the gospel can be applied to all the nooks and crannies of our identity. When I understand that God is redeeming everything about me–from my work to my role in my family to my need to be creative—suddenly the gospel is much bigger than how I’d previously understood it.

I’m afraid that a lot of good churches are still operating on a very narrow definition of human identity; this shows itself in our discipleship efforts. We often aim for only one aspect of identity. For example, women’s discipleship tends to emphasize our hearts or our hands—we either look for emotional responses from women or we elevate specific roles that we fill. But both these approaches overlook that women are also called to be thinking, wise women who reflect the wisdom of God Himself. It’s not that any one of these aspects is wrong, but they are too small. Our discipleship efforts must be multi-dimensional because we are image bearers of a multi-dimensional God.

Your book is directed mainly toward women understanding their identity as being rooted in God’s image. Do you think men have a part in helping women to arrive at this understanding, in work, marriage, parenting, the church, etc.?

Absolutely. And here’s why: living as an image bearer means living in relationship with those around us. One of the fundamental aspects of God’s nature is the He exists in relationship within the Trinity. This inter-dependence is reflected in our nature. We literally cannot exist as individuals; we cannot be ourselves apart from community. So finding identity rooted in God’s nature is not is not something that women (or men!) can pursue by themselves.

On a more practical level men have an invested stake in this conversation because they have mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, and nieces. For example, husbands must understand that they are engaged in the process of “husbandry” of their wives and daughters; this role demands that they invest and cultivate the God-given abilities and desires of the women in their lives, that they are responsible to help them become the image bearers they are destined to be.

What have you learned on this topic since your book was published?

How much I didn’t know. Thankfully I don’t think I made any major theological errors, but I realize that the call to live in God’s image is much more expansive than I’d originally thought. This isn’t simply a starting point from which we move on; it’s a paradigm that gives shape to our entire existence. Everything can be traced back to this truth.

One positive review I read for Made for More, called it, “the conversation before the conversation on gender roles.” If the doctrine of imago dei is the starting point in discussions about identity, what do you see as the “next step” for women seeking to understand their identity and calling? In what direction has your study developed?

For many women, the next step is re-evaluating their understanding of womanhood in light of the core principles of imago Dei. Whether we know it or not, we carry a lot of assumptions into our experience as women and we need to consider whether our ideas are based on being image bearers or whether they are based on our culture (and sometimes subculture).

For example, a passage like I Timothy 5 where Paul calls women to be hard-workers in their homes is rooted in the truth that we work hard as women because God is a working God. But too often, this passage is interpreted in light of our womanhood and not in light of God’s nature. It’s two different things to call a woman to be a good manager of her home because she’s a woman and to call her to be a good manager of her home because she’s made in the image of a God who orders and maintains His creation. The first interpretation puts womanhood at the center of the conversation; the second puts God at center.

I’m optimistic that this work is already starting. As I hear from readers, they are telling me how the truth of imago Dei has changed their frame of reference. Now, it’s time to start making practical applications in our homes and churches.


Remember to leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy of Hannah’s book! Winners will be notified via email on Tuesday, November 18th. {Thanks to Moody Publishers for the chance to do a giveaway!!}


knowthyGodlogo-100pxThis post is part of my Write 31 Days series, Know Thy God, Know Thyself. To read more posts from this series, visit the Introduction here.

To learn more about the book that inspired my series, visit Hannah Anderson’s blog.



Know Thy God, Know Thyself – thoughts on education

One surprising side-effect from reading Hannah Anderson‘s book was a renewed consideration for homeschooling. Now, to be clear, Hannah does not mention homeschooling, nor do I have any idea how she chooses to school her children. Made for More has nothing to do with homeschooling and most of you could probably read it and make different applications which I think is totally fine. 


Homeschooling has been in the back of my mind for the past few months. I’ve been mostly terrified to approach the subject; I have more questions than answers and honestly, it all sounds quite terrible to me. I do not fit the mold of a “homeschool mom” (as I have come to imagine it), but little by little my thoughts of “I can’t,” and “I’m not,” and “I won’t” have been subtly (and not so subtly) challenged.

It all started with a road-trip conversation with a friend. She asked about our experience with public school and I shared some of my concerns that have come up over the last couple of years. We have been fortunate to be a part of a small school district and I have gotten to know Hadley’s teachers well and overall we have had a wonderful experience. But when we chose public school for Hadley a couple of years ago, we also hoped and planned that we could be very intentional with the time we got with her in the afternoons. We didn’t have a realistic picture of the nature of those two hours after school–the pre-dinnertime “witching hour” that rarely sees a moment of peace. We didn’t think about how fast the evenings fly by with suppers and baths and bedtimes. We didn’t think about how full our evenings and weekends can be. And so, as it goes, that time slips away week after week, and I’m beginning to feel a growing distance between Hadley and I. I’m beginning to feel a growing distance from her education and my calling to train her up in the way she should go.

Homeschooling is not the only solution to this problem, of course. I know many public school families who are very intentional during the time they have with their children at home and who are very involved in all aspects of their education.  It’s quite possible the solution is for me to repent of my selfishness and laziness and pray for the grace to step up my game as a mom of four littles. But. It got the ball rolling in my mind.

Then, I’ve been thinking about these ideas of the God who generously shares himself with us and what it means for me to generously share myself with my children. What it looks like to embrace what I love and who I am and see that as a gift to my family, just as their unique gifts and interests are. What it means to live my life holistically, not trying to achieve some elusive balance but also not living in extremes.

As it turns out, I love to learn and I love to teach. And these are aspects of myself that I have yet to really share with my children. I can come to life in front of a room full of women teaching them the truths of God’s Word, but has Hadley ever seen that same light in my eyes as I teach her?

When Hannah Anderson writes about education, she added points for consideration to my ever-growing list of Should We Homeschool questions.

She writes of a college professor who said that, “the goal of learning is to become fully human…Because education is the process of making us fully human, true education must, by definition, be Christian because becoming fully human means being conformed to the image of God through Christ.”

“In a word,” she concludes, “education is about finding identity as image bearers.”

“And it is from this Logos–from the very mind of God Himself–that all knowledge flows. And it is through this Logos–through the very person of God Himself–that we pursue knowledge in order to image Him.”

I love the idea of all knowledge being God-centered, and I know homeschooling is not the only way to approach education through this lens, but I am beginning to see our tendency to separate wisdom from knowledge. You go to school to get knowledge and come to your Bible to get wisdom. But, as Anderson writes, “Scripture does not differentiate between sacred wisdom and secular knowledge.”

“At its root, imago dei knowledge is the capacity to wonder–to look for God’s fingerprints everywhere and then to stand in awe when you finally see Him. Imago dei knowledge means searching for Him with childlike curiosity, wide-eyed and eager to discover who He is and the world He has made.”

I wept when I read that the first time and again reading it now. I want to be a part of that process with my children! I want to be the one running down the path in joyful curiosity yelling over my shoulder, “Children, come and see!” I want to be the one saying, “Oh children! There is a God in heaven – he is glorious and marvelous beyond description! Life is found in knowing Him! Oh children, you must know the Lord!”

Homeschooling may or may not be the answer for our family. I’m sure I will have more to share as we continue to ask these questions. But I wanted to remember this thought process, especially on the days when even considering it is more than I have the energy for.


knowthyGodlogo-100pxThis post is part of my Write 31 Days series, Know Thy God, Know Thyself. To read more posts from this series, visit the Introduction here.

To learn more about the book that inspired my series, visit Hannah Anderson’s blog.


Know Thy God, Know Thyself – a woman’s place

knowthyGodlogoWell, October has come and gone and once again I fell off the #write31days wagon. But. I have a few more thoughts and an interview with Hannah Anderson AND a book giveaway, so hang in there for one more week of Know Thy God, Know Thyself.

I studied the passage in Luke on Mary and Martha for a workshop I gave last summer, “Being Women of the Word.” In my study, I asked the question, what does it mean to love God with my heart, soul, mind, and strength? I think the passage in Luke is structured so that this story (of Mary and Martha) is meant to illustrate what the answer is. And while I knew the story of Mary and Martha was a classic go-to text for teaching women (“I know, I know, don’t be a Martha,” many a woman said to me as I was preparing), I had never really thought about all of its implications for me, as a woman.

The first point I landed on, then, was this: Loving God looks like sitting at Jesus’s feet.

Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.” There are a few things we should notice about this. First of all, sitting at the Rabbi’s feet was the proper place for a disciple. Many in the culture would have affirmed Martha’s concern. A woman belonged in the kitchen! But here Jesus teaches something that is crucial and sweet for us as women–we are called to be his disciples. This might seem basic and obvious, but let’s think about it functionally. We all have different callings. We have different gifts; we’re in different seasons of life. I have many roles–I am a wife, mom, MC leader, friend, sister, daughter, etc. Martha thought she was faithfully fulfilling her calling as a hostess and thought it reasonable to call her sister to do the same. But we see here that while we are entrusted with many different roles and responsibilities, we have a primary calling to be disciples of Christ first and foremost.

Anderson looks at this passage as well, though she points out that it’s less about a calling to be a disciple and more about bearing the image of a God of knowledge. She comments on a woman’s place:

“In Martha’s mind, Mary should have been serving not learning. That’s what women do after all, right? We’re the nurturers, we’re the hostesses, we’re the caregivers. Mary needed to be in the kitchen, not at Jesus’ feet.

But Jesus said something surprising. ‘Martha, Martha.’ He said, ‘you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion which will not be taken away from her.’

The good portion.

And with these words, Jesus turned the idea of ‘women’s work’ upside down. For Him, the greatest work Mary could do that day was to sit at His feet and learn from Him. The greatest work she could do was to become like her teacher–the Logos Himself. The greatest work she could do was to become an image bearer who reflected His knowledge.” (Made for More, chp. 7)

She goes on with perhaps one of my most favorite paragraphs in the book:

“When Jesus approved of Mary sitting at His feet, He invited all women to do the same. And here, all that Eve lost when she was deceived and fell into ignorance, He redeems by enabling us to become women who can open our mouths ‘with wisdom’ (Proverbs 31:26). In the end, we pursue learning because God is a God of knowledge and thought and wisdom and in order to reflect and represent Him, we must become women of knowledge and thought and wisdom.” (chp. 7)

Speaking of Mary and Martha, however, Anderson points out our tendency as women to run to the “pink passages”–those places in Scripture that are specifically about or directed toward women. The danger here, she points out, is that “we make womanhood the central focus of our pursuit of knowledge instead of Christ.”

I think it’s pretty natural–we want to know how to live as women. We want to know what it means to follow Christ as a woman. It’s not that those are inherently terrible questions, but I’ve been drowning in them. When I’m searching for answers about a role I’m supposed to fill, inevitably I find myself trying to measure up to someone else’s standards. I’m busy trying to be “Super Wife” and “Super Mom” and all my learning only serves to bury me under a pile of dos and don’ts and unachieved Pinterest pins. So eventually I toss all of that aside and throw myself into theology and ministry and more “spiritual” things that become so disconnected from my life as a wife and mother that I begin to resent these roles and dream of the day when I can go back to school or pursue ministry full-time.


But I don’t want to find the balance. I don’t want to walk a tight-rope between my desire to learn and grow as a disciple of Christ and my desire to learn and grow as a wife and mother and godly woman. And I think looking through the holistic lens of imago dei is the “radical middle.”

“When you pursue knowledge of Christ, the Logos of God, you will be transformed from the inside out. You will adorn what Peter calls the “hidden person of the heart,” which will naturally express itself in your womanhood as quickly as it will into every other facet of your life–from your unique personality to your closest relationships to the work He has called you to do.” (chp. 7)

It’s similar to the conflict many women feel between work and home, or for many of us stay-at-home-moms, the idea of choosing between using our gifts and serving in our homes. Hannah offers, again, the radical middle–

“We must stop assuming that our homes and our gifts are separate. Being women who work imago dei means being women who are productive and sacrificial wherever we are because our God is productive and sacrifical everywhere that He is. Working imago dei means working like Him.” (chp. 8)

This is a new way of thinking for me, in my I-like-extremes kind of brain. The problem is, we’ve got black and white and I’ve been trying to go with gray, but it turns out it’s actually yellow.

If I could summarize what I’m learning right now, maybe that’s it. It’s all yellow.

Or purple. Or orange.

But so very not gray.

And what I mean is, there’s no balance. There’s no homemaker-disciple balance. There’s no workplace-home life balance. There’s just imago dei. And it’s expressed in innumerable ways because God is so diverse and creative that he could manifest His image in a gazillion people and we have not even skimmed the surface of who He is. And yet He is so unified that He can take those gazillion different people and build each piece together into a greater whole that is the dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Eph. 2:22).

And Christ is the head,
and Christ is the Cornerstone,
and in Him, all things hold together.


knowthyGodlogo-100pxThis post is part of my Write 31 Days series, Know Thy God, Know Thyself. To read more posts from this series, visit the Introduction here.

To learn more about the book that inspired my series, visit Hannah Anderson’s blog.

#write31days: oh, how I love your law! (day 17)

knowthyGodlogoThe month is nearing an end, but I’m going to plug through; I’ve decided not to rush it with multiple catch-up posts each day. I’m excited about all I’ve been learning through this process, and even more excited about the interview with Hannah Anderson and book giveaway that will wrap up my 31 days series, Know Thy God, Know Thyself.

In her book, Hannah Anderson makes the following claim:

“We can’t know what it means to live as image bearers, apart from clear, direct revelation from God. We can’t know ourselves apart from His perfect Law as it is revealed in Scripture…

Instead of a barrier to keep us from being ourselves, God’s Law is intended to guide us back to our true selves.

(Made for More, chp. 3)

She quotes Sally Lloyd-Jones who writes, “God’s rules are his gift to us. To help us be who we really are” (Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing).
It’s taken me a long time to be able to think about God’s Law in positive terms. Several years ago, my family attended a church that preached rules from the pulpit. Forgiveness was something that happened when you asked Jesus into your heart, and after that, it was an up-by-the-boot-straps kind of life. As a junior high student asking a lot of questions and making a lot of mistakes, I fluctuated between trying really, really hard and embracing full-out rebellion. It was a cycle that continued through college and beyond until a little over four years ago when I sat in the back of a church that preached a Gospel I had never heard. And it’s been mostly sweet ever since.
With this newfound discovery of the good news of Christ, the Law took on a new form for me. As Paul teaches in Romans, “Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin” (7:7). So the Law serves to point me to my need for Christ–to show me the many ways in which I fall short. This understanding opened my eyes to the depths of my sin. No amount of trying could make me somehow “good enough.” The despair I felt beginning in junior high was legit. But as I grappled with my true state of sinfulness, I could finally delight in the goodness and mercy of God who provided his very Son to obey perfectly in my place. There was no “and then,” only “It is finished.”
But then comes the question of sanctification. If God’s rules only show me what I’m incapable of doing, then what is it that I’m supposed to do?
The best explanations I’ve heard come from that discussion of indicative/imperative I mentioned at the start of the series. Because of who we are in Christ, because of all that He has done to secure our redemption, because of His great and precious promises including his ongoing power and presence in the form of the Holy Spirit (indicatives), we can obey his commands (imperatives). Our obedience comes from a place of humble gratitude. We are at rest from our striving to earn any favor with God because we know we have received all of His favor in Christ, and yet we continue to strive unto holiness because with grateful hearts we see that He has created us to live in a way that pleases him. And yet again, as we strive, we look back and humbly realize that any obedience is only by the power of His Spirit at work in us. My effort? His work? That’s the mystery, my husband says.
But I still get a little nervous when we start talking about God’s Law. 
Psalm 119 is 176 verses declaring love for God’s Law, and Anderson’s words made me want to think about it a little more. Is it truly possible to declare with the Psalmist, “Oh how I love your Law!” and mean it in a way that I’m not drowning under a list of rules nor living under the weight of legalism? The ESV Study Bible offered these notes:
This psalm reflects the view that the Lord, who abounds in steadfast love and faithfulness and who therefore freely and fully forgives his people when they confess their sins (Ex. 34:6–7), loves his people without limit, and therefore also guides the faithful in the way of life that is genuinely good and beautiful (cf. Ps. 119:124). The psalm speaks the language of one ravished with moral beauty, to which there is only one fitting response—to try to reproduce this beauty, as much as possible, in one’s daily life. There is no pretense of perfection here (cf. v. 5), only yearning, and trust (vv. 41, 176), and dependence on God (v. 125). To say that these commands are “true” (v. 160) is to confess that, with all their elements geared to a particular culture and phase of redemptive history, the principles that underlie them are founded on the very nature of things, and of God.
I love this. I have never considered pairing the doctrine of imago dei with the idea that God’s Law reveals His nature. I am still deeply aware of my shortcomings as revealed in the Law. With Paul and Hannah, “I am completely, utterly incapable of being the very thing I was made to be!” But then it makes me so grateful–that God chose to reveal to us His true nature and in so doing, also reveals to us in the midst of a broken world who we are meant to be. It makes me so thankful for the new identity He has graciously bestowed on me in Christ, where I am being “renewed in knowledge after the image of [my] creator” (Col. 3:10). 
But more than anything, I am grateful that God chose to reveal His image in the person of Christ, who perfectly fulfilled the Law in my place. Take a moment to marvel at the Image of God:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Colossians 1:15-20

knowthyGodlogo-100pxThis post is part of my Write 31 Days series, Know Thy God, Know Thyself. To read more posts from this series, visit the Introduction here.

To learn more about the book that inspired my series, visit Hannah Anderson’s blog.

#write31days – imago dei defined (day 16)

So what does it mean to be made in the image of God? That is in part what I set out to answer with this series, and I’m not sure I’ve shared a concise definition. Much has been written on this topic and I have only read a little, but what follows are some excerpts I found helpful.

“As an image bearer,” Hannah Anderson writes, “you are made to reflect and represent God on this earth.” She goes on to describe the three aspects of identity that must converge if we are to live out the imago dei: “In order to know yourself and exist as you were meant to exist, you must live in dependent communion with Him; you must be in loving relationship with others; and you must exercise creative care over creation.” All of these things work together as a prism, she says, reflecting God’s glory through your identity. (Chp. 2)

Michael Horton attempts to answer the question, “What is the image of God in humanity?” with some of the features expressed in Scripture:

“First, as created, humanity was similar to God in terms of moral perfection…There was righteousness, holiness, godliness. In short, Adam and Eve were as much like God as a creature can be like its creator. All of life was to be a part of worship…

Beyond moral perfection, Adam and Eve enjoyed a creative link with their Creator. God imagined a world and brought it into being–and what imagination!…Of course, God is the Creator and we are creatures. Nevertheless, humans mimic God in imagination…

The image of God is also reflected in the religious dimension of human existence. In other words, being created in God’s image means that we share with God an invincible sense of and concern for the eternal.” (Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, chp. 2)

It is difficult to reconcile the imago dei in its created perfection with its current fallen form. I loved how Anderson fleshed out the ways we reflect and represent God in our love, generosity, wisdom, and work. Horton describes it this way: “Humanity lost moral, creative, and religious perfection in the fall; but the race did not lose moral, creative, and religious capacity.”

He goes on to list some practical benefits of the doctrine of imago dei:

“First, we have an incredibly weighty existence which requires that we respect God and our neighbor whether the latter is Christian or not. It means that we should expect to find common ground with non-Christians as a natural part of human existence. We can build cars together on the assembly line or work together on city councils and school boards without being antagonistic or adversarial. After all, civic life finds its origin in creation rather than in redemption…

Another practical benefit is that the doctrine of creation frees us to enjoy work…Before the fall, God instituted work as a holy, God-honoring, noble activity…In Eden, everyone had a calling. Even after the fall, all men and women are given a calling by God–again, regardless of whether or not they are believers…Therefore, whether one is a truck driver or a homemaker; a corporate executive or a lawyer; a dishwasher or a doctor, one is pursuing a calling which God has included as part of his image in everyone. Christians especially should be inspired by this doctrine to pursue excellence and diligence in their callings and should recognize it as instituted by God in creation.

Another thing we learn from this biblical doctrine is that God is not interested only in religion…What our convictions require is not that we deny our humanity, but that we be God-centered in the way in which we express our humanity…

The doctrine of creation also convinces us that God is in control. Out of chaos he created order; out of darkness, light; and out of nothing, spectacular variety…Our own limitations make it impossible for us to understand the purpose behind every event, for often we are too close to a situation. Yet years go by and finally we see how everything came together into a colorful and orderly pattern…

Similarly, we learn from the doctrine of creation the ultimate reason for intelligibility of the world…What seems random to us is also under God’s wise control…

Finally, the doctrine of creation leaves us without excuse. In the scientific religious ideology that dogmatically presupposes that there is no eternal perspective, we can only conclude with Dostoevsky that everything is permitted. But Scripture teaches us the significance of today’s actions in the long run. Our short lives here and now have eternal weight.” (Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, chp. 2)

This is a bit of a book report :) but it was helpful for me in providing a framework for thinking about what it means to exist in the imago dei.


knowthyGodlogo-100pxThis post is part of my Write 31 Days series, Know Thy God, Know Thyself. To read more posts from this series, visit the Introduction here.

To learn more about the book that inspired my series, visit Hannah Anderson’s blog.

#write31days – behold your God (day 15)

Ted Tripp says that we are “instinctively and compulsively worshippers.” In reference to parenting, he says we (parents) have a responsibility to “hold out for [our] children…the glory and excellence and beauty of the God for whom they are made.”

“It’s to be coming to our children all the time saying, ‘Oh children! There is a God in heaven – he is glorious and marvelous beyond description! Life is found in knowing Him! Oh children, you must know the Lord!’”

Oh children, you must know the Lord!

You must know the Lord because apart from Him, you can never be truly alive! Apart from Him, you will be lost. 

I know this is where I started, but I am continually struck by the truth that the only way to know yourself is to know your God.

As I explore this identity crisis, I find that I must not go deeper into myself, but deeper outside of myself, because it is in losing my life that I will find it in Christ (Luke 9:24).


I mentioned earlier how reflecting on creation before the fall has given me a new perspective on my fallenness. Michael Horton writes, “Adam and Eve sought a self-identity that did not require God as a reference point; in the bargain, they lost their identity” (chp. 3). Instead of beholding the God who made them, they listened to the serpent hiss, “Did God really say?” Hannah Anderson writes that Adam and Even did not just reject God, they rejected “everything that was true about themselves as well” (chp. 3).

It’s why an understanding of all sin as some form of idolatry makes sense. Because we are made to be worshippers, if we do not behold the God who made us, we will bow down in worship to whatever we think will give us life. There is nothing more contrary to the imago dei. Sin promises but does not deliver.

Horton quotes the following lines written on a cafe painting:

I have taken the pill.
I have hoisted my skirts to my thighs,
Dropped them to my ankles,
Rebelled at the University,
Skied at Aspen,
Lived with two men,
married one.
Earned my keep,
Kept my identity,
And frankly…

These lines resonated with me deeply. How frequently I search for my identity in my personal feminine freedom, in my risks and adventures, in my relationships, in my success and achievements.

And how frequently do I find myself completely and utterly lost.

And yet it is true as Anderson writes that “I am completely, utterly incapable of being the very thing I was made to be!” (Romans 7:19)

Apart from Christ, a veil remains over my heart. I cannot behold my God. I cannot even begin to grasp who he has created me to be. Left to myself, I will choose created things over the Creator every. single. time. (Romans 1)

But I am not left to myself.

“The God who made us, the God who fashioned us out of dust to display His glory, will not leave His image bearer helpless and broken. When the time was right, He came as a child to rescue His children. Because we had left Him, He came to us. Because we would not humble ourselves, He humbled Himself. Because we would not obey, He obeyed perfectly. And because we live lives of death, He lived and died to free us from them.

Once again, He can proclaim that there is no life apart from Him. There is no existence, no purpose, no reality apart from Him. Because in this moment–when the Image bears the sins of the image bearer–He once again declares that ‘from Him and through Him and to Him’ are all things.” (Made for More, chp. 3)

I once was lost
but now
am found.

But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

(2 Corinthians 3:16-18 ESV)


knowthyGodlogo-100pxThis post is part of my Write 31 Days series, Know Thy God, Know Thyself. To read more posts from this series, visit the Introduction here.

To learn more about the book that inspired my series, visit Hannah Anderson’s blog.

#write31days – unconventional dignity (day 14)

I don’t have any words today. So I’ll share some that blessed me:

“Consider Sarah’s servant, whom Sarah drove from her home. Hagar went into hiding (Genesis 16:4-6). In verse 8, the angel of the Lord addressed the maidservant, who in turn gave a name to the Lord (v. 13): ‘You are the God who sees me.’ This is remarkable. The God of the universe addresses Hagar, a supposedly lowly servant, calling her by name. Dr. Bruce Waltke, professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary states: ‘Of the many thousands of ancient Near Eastern texts, this is the only instance where a deity, or his messenger, calls a woman by name and thereby invests her with exalted dignity. Hagar is the Old Testament counterpart to the Samaritan woman (see John 4): both are women, both are not of Abraham’s family, both are at a well and both are sinners, yet God treats both with compassion, gives them special revelations and bestows on them unconventional dignity.” (Nurturing the Nations, p. 195)


knowthyGodlogo-100pxThis post is part of my Write 31 Days series, Know Thy God, Know Thyself. To read more posts from this series, visit the Introduction here.

To learn more about the book that inspired my series, visit Hannah Anderson’s blog.

#write31days – wholeness (day 13)


It’s October 20th, you say?

Well, I’m a little disappointed in how my series has gone. While I hoped that it would afford me opportunities to write, it turns out that committing to a blogging series does not suddenly make four busy children sit quietly with their hands folded so I can concentrate. Nor does it infuse me with post-bedtime energy (or pre-wake-up energy) when there are brief moments of peace and stillness in our house. Even on mine and Jordan’s mini-vacation this past week, there were too many friends and sites to see to sit down and crank out a blog post.


This series has gotten me to read, and that I love.

It’s gotten me to think and make connections that have lingered in the back of my mind and had yet to find their way out.

So I’m going to pretend it’s only day 13, because I have many thoughts to process and I don’t want to run out of time.

Just to let you know where I’ve been:

I finished Hannah Anderson’s Made for More and wept through much of it. So. many. thoughts. And I think I’m going to give away a copy. Stay tuned.

My husband told me Michael Horton had a good chapter on the doctrine of imago dei in his book Putting Amazing Back into Grace. It was good. So good, in fact, that I started back at the beginning and have been pleasantly surprised how a book on the doctrines of grace can speak so much into identity. Coming soon.

A friend showed me that The Village Church is doing a sermon series called, “A Beautiful Design” that is very much related to all I’ve been thinking and reading about. I haven’t started listening yet, but I’m hoping to find a way to squeeze it in. In my abundance of spare time. Maybe while I sleep?

I traveled with my husband to San Fransisco and Napa, CA this past week and wrestled with my identity crisis the whole time. There’s something about traveling that brings me to life, but it’s a passion I have pushed down and hidden and suppressed for quite awhile. When it rears its head, I’m not sure what to do with it.


We were there to photograph a good friend’s wedding, and another close college friend was in town as a bridesmaid. As we stood around talking at the reception, she asked how we liked living near Fargo.

“Well…” I started to respond, but hesitated.

I do like Fargo, in some ways. I am so grateful for our life. I like being close to family, my husband has a wonderful job, we have a beautiful home. I have come to grips with the fact that life isn’t about following my dreams in the way that my generation preaches. I have embraced right now as my shepherd season and I’m trusting that every mundane moment is part of God shaping me to be like Christ. But do I love being there? Not really. Do I daydream often about what it would be like to live somewhere else? Yes.

If I say no, am I ungrateful? Discontent?

Before I could say more, she laughed. Of course I wanted to move, she said. She knew me. She listened to me talk for years about leaving Fargo. She watched me pack up and move to Los Angeles and later to Chicago. She was there when my dreams were shattered and I moved home, and she was there during every attempt to leave again.

There was something really sweet about that conversation. Because I moved after elementary school and again in high school (and again in and after college), I don’t have many friendships that span multiple seasons of life. Most of the people I see on a regular basis now only know me from the last few years when I’ve been learning what it looks like to walk with Jesus. I love those people and am so thankful for the role of my church and community here, but having that conversation made me realize something: I spend a lot of time trying to prove that I’m different than I was.

The reality is, I am different. God has changed me from the inside out, and that includes my loves, my people, my ambitions, my theology.

But what I haven’t been able to reconcile are the remnants of my past that still shape me; the aspects of my personality that still describe me; the dreams and passions and gifts that are being sanctified but are still very much a part of who I am. I’ve been afraid to be seen as I was instead of as who I am, so I’ve buried all of that deep behind slumping shoulders, tried to put my head down and fill the role of godly-wife-and-mother.

That’s why this conversation was so refreshing. My longtime friend didn’t see my desire to leave as evidence of a discontented heart, she saw it as evidence of who I was.

Hannah Anderson gets at this in her chapter on holistic identity. She writes:

“One of the biggest barriers to a flourishing life is our tendency to separate our identity into categories…But because we are image bearers, our identity is not simply the sum of our various parts. Because we are made in God’s image, we are made to reflect His own wholeness and unity. We are made to live holistic lives.

“…At its most basic level, a holistic life is an attempt to coordinate and integrate the various aspects of identity into one complete package. It is a search for internal peace and unity, and its absence can often be the very reason people begin searching for meaning and purpose in the first place…Even as Christians, we pursue an elusive ‘balance’ and often believe that peace simply means finding the midpoint between two extremes.

“But wholeness isn’t simply about finding the middle ground, forgoing desire, or obliterating the different parts of your identity. And it’s not about giving equal time and shared custody to the categories of life. Wholeness comes when the parts of your life work together because they have been united by something greater than themselves: when they have been united by God’s own wholeness.” (Chp. 9)

She goes on:

“Not only are God’s people to love Him exclusively, not having any other gods before Him, but we are to love Him with the fullness of our identities, to love Him with every aspect of our lives…

As we submit every part of ourselves to Him, as He becomes the unifying element of our identity, we can finally achieve wholeness. We can finally be whole as He is whole. He does not obliterate the details of our lives, but pervades them in order to reconcile the different parts and make peace–in order to make them work together in beautiful coordination for our good and His glory.” (Chp. 9)

What does it look like to achieve this wholeness? I’m not exactly sure. Right now, for me, it looks like asking lots of questions. It looks like opening myself to things I wouldn’t have otherwise considered. It looks like lots and lots of prayer. It looks like humility and gratitude.

And, most sweetly, it looks like freedom.

Freedom to see the intentional design of a Creator.
Freedom to repent of the sinfulness that taints every part of my being without having to reject those things that make me, me.
Freedom to hope and depend in the God who is faithful to complete the work He’s started.

“In many ways, pursuing image dei simplicity is anything but simple. It requires more than reducing our personhood to manageable categories and roles. It requires more than achieving balance between the different parts of life. It requires submitting every part of who you are–whether it is your womanhood, your gifting, or your personality–to every part of who He is.

And when you do, when you look to Jesus, the perfect Image Bearer who exists in perfect wholeness, you will once again find your own. You will find peace. You will find harmony. And like a brilliantly cut diamond, you will shine as the glory of His nature reflects and radiates through the different facets of your life.” (Chp. 9)


knowthyGodlogo-100pxThis post is part of my Write 31 Days series, Know Thy God, Know Thyself. To read more posts from this series, visit the Introduction here.

To learn more about the book that inspired my series, visit Hannah Anderson’s blog.

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