#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.

#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).

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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…
I’M LOST.

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)

#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)

#write31days – wholeness (day 13)

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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.

But.

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.

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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)

#write31days – fallen. (11-12)

I’ve spent nearly half the month pondering Genesis 1 and 2, and I’m starting to feel a little behind. We are created in the image of God, yes, and there’s so much more to get into there, but Genesis 3 happens. We are fallen, cursed, without God and without hope in the world.

I should probably get moving.

And yet.

And yet there is no “and yet” if we don’t start in the beginning.

“Creation is the proper starting point for any consideration of human identity and its recovery through the gospel. Why is this?

When we discuss the fall without having appreciated the majesty of the human creature by virtue of creation, the impression is given that there is something inherent in our humanness that predisposes us to sin, that there is something deeply sinful and unspiritual in being human…

So creation is not the problem, and it is only when we more fully appreciate the majesty of humanity as God’s creation that we can adequately weigh the horror of the fall.”

– Michael Horton, Putting the Amazing Back Into Grace (chapter 2)

Just as we can’t understand God’s holiness apart from an understanding of our sinfulness, so we cannot understand our sinfulness apart from understanding who we were created to be.

I’ve found myself grieving my fallenness in a new way this month as I’ve pondered and meditated on the concept of imago dei. To see who we were created to be–created to be like God, to reflect and represent Him on earth (as Hannah Anderson describes it), and then to see how far I fall short–how I choose to find my identity outside of my Maker, how I run to anyone and anything that promises life and doesn’t deliver–it’s devastating. I am exposed and ashamed. Like Adam and Eve hiding in the shrubs from the One with whom they had enjoyed sweet, intimate fellowship only one evening prior.

And yet.

We were without God and without hope in the world…but God.

God killed the animal and clothed the naked and ashamed. He followed the curse with a promise: the seed of the woman would crush the head of that serpent.

That seed–God Himself–naked from the womb, naked on the cross–bearing the full weight of my shame. Cursed thorns pressing my curse deep into the bleeding brow of the King of Kings.

Wretched woman that I am! Who will save me from this body of death??

Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:13-14 ESV)

#write31days: what it means to be human (days 7-10)

This is what a 31-days series looks like with 4 children (3 of whom are 2 and under).

Less than 31 days.

Instead of apologizing for it, I’m just going to go with it.

So, here we are.

Hannah Anderson describes the doctrine of imago dei like this:

Imago dei means that your life has purpose and meaning because God made you to be like Himself. [It] means that your life has intrinsic value, not simply because of who you are as an individual, but because of who He is as your God. Imago dei means that your life is sacred because He has stamped His identity onto yours.

…By revealing that we are made in God’s image, it is revealing how we are to exist, how we are made to live, and what it means to be human.”

What does it mean to be human?

My favorite class in college was an upper-level political science course called International Human Rights. We studied the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and I found it to be one of the most beautiful documents ever written. The preamble declares, “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,” and goes on to list, article by article, what it means for us as humans to “act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood” (Article 1).

I don’t know all of the ins-and-outs of common grace, but this seems like evidence of it. We see in our neighbors a dignity and value that exists simply because they, like us, are human. This is not without exception, of course, as genocide, slavery, human trafficking and other crimes against humanity illustrate. But despite our fallenness, despite our differences, the image of God is written on our hearts.

I had coffee with a new friend yesterday, and she talked about growing up with an “us” and “them” mentality towards people inside and outside the church. It grieves her now, as she recognizes common grace and the simple reality that we have the same Creator; we bear the same image, and as a result, each person makes a unique contribution to the world. I think recognizing this truth elevates Jesus’ commands to love both my neighbor and my enemy to a whole different level.

My brief stints in D.C., L.A. and Chicago exposed me to the reality of homelessness. I could not walk from one block to another without passing someone with cup-in-hand. I can’t say that I gave to everyone who asked, and it’s with shame that I admit that many times, I would look to my feet in discomfort and pass by as quickly as possible. But someone challenged me to look up. To look them in the eye and genuinely wish them well. To give what I could–coins, bills, a hot meal or a warm cup of coffee–with the acknowledgement that they are, in fact, human. This is one of the greatest gifts we can give, she said. Because when you’re homeless sometimes you forget that you’re still human.

When we look another human being in the eye, we affirm the humanity of a person made in the image of God. And when we do that, we have the opportunity to celebrate the God who creates, the God who loves, the God who redeems.

 

#write31days: Creator (days 4, 5, & 6)

I had a busy weekend without time to read or write (and lacked the foresight to read and write in advance). I hope by the latter half of the month to get to process more of all that I’m taking in, but in the meantime, as I’m working my way through the second chapter of Hannah Anderson’s Made for More, I’m pondering God as Creator with this beautiful picture:

In the darkness, something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing. It was very far away and Digory found it hard to decide from what direction it was coming. Sometimes it seemed to come from all directions at once. Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth beneath them. Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself. There were no words. There was hardly even a tune. But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard. It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it…

Then two wonders happened at the same moment. One was that the voice was suddenly joined by other voices; more voices than you could possibly count. They were in harmony with it, but far higher up the scale: cold, tingling, silvery voices. The second wonder was that the blackness overhead, all at once, was blazing with stars. They didn’t come out gently one by one, as they do on a summer evening. One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand, thousand points of light leaped out–single stars, constellations, and planets, brighter and bigger than any in our world. There were no clouds. The new stars and the new voices began at exactly the same time. If you had seen and heard it, as Digory did, you would have felt quite certain that it was the stars themselves which were singing, and that it was the First Voice, the deep one, which had made them appear and made them sing.

– from The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

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and these lovely words:

And yet the deeper magic is that no matter how small we may feel–no matter how small we may actually be–we are not insignificant. We are not lost in the grand cosmos. We do matter. But it’s not because of anything we’ve done; it’s because of something God did back at the beginning. Because back when God created all this beauty, all this life, all this splendor, He capped it off with one final masterpiece–one that He did not leave to words alone. No, for this final masterpiece, He stooped down and left His own fingerprints in the dust.

And that final masterpiece was us.

– from Made for More by Hannah Anderson (chapter 2)

#write31days: introductions (day 3)

I grew up believing I could be anything I wanted. My parents challenged us, yes, but mostly they gave us room to explore. I traveled the world in high school; my parents put their 17-year-old on a plane to Africa and prayed like crazy, but never did they ask why. Why the adventure? Why the unknown? Why Africa? They knew why. Just a year prior, they stood beside me and watched me dive head-first off a cliff. They listened to the stories and dreams for as long as I could talk. Putting me on that plane was inevitable. Maybe they had known it for years.

My parents didn’t ask why. But they also didn’t ask who. Who are you? Maybe they didn’t ask because they knew I didn’t know yet. They knew that getting on a plane and flying halfway around the world was part of me trying to figure it out.

But that’s what we ask each other: who are you?

I’m Kendra Dahl. Wife of Jordan, Mom of Hadley, Adrienne, and Maximus. Homemaker, stay-at-home-mom, used to be a photographer, college graduate. These and other roles shape my answer to that question.

The problem is, as these categories slip off my tongue, so do the expectations. I must be a good wife, a good mom, a good homemaker.

I’m Kendra Dahl, and I’m a failure.

I’m Kendra Dahl, and I don’t know who I am. Only who I’m supposed to be.

“Unfortunately, while roles and categories provide us some measure of stability in an uncertain world, the problem comes when these things change, as they inevitably do. The loss of a job, a broken marriage, unexpected illness, infertility, or churches that fail us. And suddenly the questions we had succeeded in repressing flood back to the surface…

Perhaps even more surprisingly, good times can initiate the search for identity as often as bad…Even in these moments, as we come down from the emotional high, we realize that they didn’t fulfill us the way we had expected; despite having invested so much of ourselves in what we thought would provide a lasting sense of meaning, we hardly know ourselves in the midst of it.”

– Hannah Anderson, Made for More (chp. 1)

I’ve been pondering that adventurous 17-year old who disappeared under a pile of shoulds and can’ts.

And I’ev been wondering what it would be like to think less in terms of roles and more in terms of loves.

I’m Kendra Dahl, and I love Jesus. I love my husband. I love my kids, I love the Bible, I love to read, I love going on adventures, I love people and their stories, I love travel and experiencing different cultures, I love words and piecing them together to make an idea clear. I love learning and sharing what I’ve learned.

These loves still do not validate my existence. They are not sin-less and they do not justify me. They are still not the starting point of my identity.

But I wonder, as I explore this doctrine of Imago Dei, if I will begin to see that the things I love are shaped by the God who made me. I wonder if thinking in these terms could allow me to celebrate the grace of God who blesses me with good things, who continually shapes and changes me to be more like Jesus. I wonder if it would help me to praise God for the ways he has tangibly grown me–I haven’t always loved the Bible. My definition of adventure has changed. My love for people has grown from a simple curiosity to a genuine desire to see people experience the freedom that comes from knowing Christ. I wonder if thinking in these terms could expose my sin and lead me to hope in Christ as he completes the work he started.

I’ve realized that I share very little of myself with my children. I’ve been so caught up in the “shoulds” of my roles that I haven’t allowed them to see my loves. Maybe I’ve forgotten about my loves.

A few weeks ago I read the Magician’s Nephew. Realizing I had been deprived of a beautiful story, I told Hadley, “You’ve got to read this!” My eyes lit up with excitement as I gave her glimpses of Aslan’s creation of Narnia. Her eyes danced with mine as she begged to know more. I wouldn’t tell. She had to read it. But she didn’t have to read it because I was her mom and good moms make their kids read books. She wanted to read it because I had shared my love.

I wonder if that’s a little bit of what it’s like to be made in the image of God.

I don’t know, I’m only on chapter 2. :)

#write31days: before the very beginning (day 2)

knowthyGodlogo“One of the most compelling things about this majestic God, this God who existed before the worlds began, is that He understands our weakness…So much so, that even back in the emptiness of the cosmos, He knew that we would never be able to truly seek Him for ourselves. He knew that in our confusion, we would stumble about in the darkness, unable to find Him and unable to understand ourselves. He knew this, and so in those moments before He laid the foundations of the earth, He planned a way that He would find us.

It’s a plan that has unfolded throughout human history, as massive in scale as it is intimate in detail. It’s a plan that has often twisted and turned, at times seeming to make little sense. And ultimately it is a plan that took its fullest shape when He Himself came to us in Jesus Christ.

And always, always, it has been a plan to make us like Himself.

You are part of that plan…Before your first breath, before your first cry, before you even knew yourself, He knew you and has been on a mission to make you one with Himself. Because when you finally are, you will finally know Him; and when you know Him, then you will finally be able to live and move and have your being as He has always intended. You will finally be free to live beyond the roles and labels and expectations because you will finally be free to live in the fullness of God Himself.”

– from Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image by Hannah Anderson (chp. 1)

31 days: know thy God / know thyself

I tried the 31 days challenge last year, but I didn’t get very far. I’m going to give it another go.

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Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” (John Calvin, p. 35, Institutes of the Christian Religion)

In my church we talk often of indicatives versus imperatives in the Bible. I grew up hearing a lot of imperatives–what I was supposed to do–but they were separated from the indicatives–what Christ has already done. Even the 10 Commandments (imperatives) begin with a declaration of who God is and what He has done for His people (indicative). When I discovered this concept, it became like a game for me, to find the gospel anchor in all of the passages that had been plucked from their precious context and handed to me in the form of do’s and don’ts.

I recently read a wonderful book that looked at God’s design for women. It wasn’t a how–to manual on being a wife, mother, or homemaker–it was a call to step back and see the God who designed women. This book brought healing in a way that I didn’t know I needed; it opened my eyes to the reality that as I’ve tried to understand my roles–as I’ve tried to make sense of my dreams and gifts and passions and reality–I’ve been caught up in the imperatives and lost sight of the indicatives. I’ve been on a search to figure out who I am as a woman, but I have forgotten that the starting point of my identity is God Himself.

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)

I also stumbled across Hannah Anderson the other day and loved how she defined the problem as a lack of understanding of the doctrine of imago dei:

The doctrine of imago Dei teaches that every human being, every man and woman, every boy and, yes, every girl is made in God’s image, destined to reflect His character and to represent Him on this earth. Our core identity comes from God’s identity. Pay attention: imago Dei is not simply a starting point for other doctrines, nor is it simply a means of ascribing equal worth to men and women (although it does). No, imago Dei is the most basic paradigm for how we understand our existence.

It is a truth that runs through the warp and weave of the entire Scripture. It informs everything about the gospel—what we were created to be, what sin is, how redemption happens, and what we will one day become. It is also the basis on which Jesus Christ, the God-Man, can redeem us. Simply put, the truth of imago Dei IS creation, justification, sanctification, and glorification all in one package.

And if you mess with it, you mess with the gospel.

She goes on to say:

If we don’t get imago Dei right, if women don’t find their first identity as image bearers destined to reflect the perfect Image Bearer, we will erect false gods and create an environment of legalism. An environment devoid of the gospel. In such an environment, women will either rely on their own ability to be “good” women, or they will become discouraged and depressed when they can’t meet the standard.

So, naturally, I bought her book. And I’m digging in. And processing with you, for 31 days.

“It is God’s right to name Himself, the world and the people He has created…It is from Him–not psychology, sociology, anthropology or any other human science–that we gain a proper framework for understanding ourselves, our world, and God Himself.” (Mary Kassian, p. 242-43, The Feminist Gospel: The Movement to Unite Feminism Within the Church)

 

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