So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them. Genesis 1:27
As a new seminary student, I had a four-part assignment to research what has been understood about imago dei (image of God) in the Old and New Testaments through various commentaries. I spent hours digesting and pondering to produce papers. Those thoughts from so many theologians about God’s creation of humanity in his image, the purpose he gave for our existence, the ways sin changed things, and truth about Jesus, the only perfect human after the fall, who completed his earthly mission toward an eternal redemption. Historically some followed the culture of the time to define the imago as reason or our ability to be rational. There were disputes about whether the fall obliterated the image in us. And around it went. These lofty thoughts danced around my heart and head as I went through the day-to-day of living and serving.
Then one Friday morning Wesley came for his Hippotherapy session. I’m sure there are medical explanations with words a mile long to define what his struggles are. What I know is that sweet Wesley has a body and mind that are just broken. Things don’t work like they should. He has no words to tell us what hurts or what is difficult. He cannot sit, stand, run, jump, or express his thoughts. He’s had surgeries and struggles.
He hadn’t been to the horses in a while. Whether it was the sun, the physical stretching and work, or just life, he just cried through the sessions. Wesley likes the toy maraca. He also likes music, as it connects and soothes. So that’s what we did. This day “Patty Cake” was a winner, so I sang many rounds to him, adding the bits that just came out from when I used to sing it to my gals. Suddenly, in a moment I will never forget, Wesley pulled up tall, caught my eye, and chortled with delight! In a beautiful moment of joy and connection, in a sweet and innocent boy with little to offer in terms of productivity or accomplishment, God shined out his image in a way that changed me.
Against the violence that is humanity in our fallen condition, against the way we like to measure the worth of ourselves and other humans based on productivity or popularity, against the struggle of feeling we need to live life “for God” … there was Wesley. Laughing. Being. Shining out the goodness of God. There is nothing easy about Wesley’s life (nor yours and mine as we wade through our brokenness), but our God sees, knows, delights in, and loves us … just because we are.
There is wonder in this. As there is wonder in the king of the universe born into our chaos to do what it took to make a way back to the way his Father intended it to be. This Christmas, in each human you encounter … yes, each one, whether your family or the one our scared hearts want to hate and fear … look closely. In each one is the imago dei, creating worth and beauty. He loves them. Shouldn’t we?
Lord of the universe,
Give us eyes to see as you see,
Your weighty glory
Shining out of each
Thank you for giving your life,
To give Life to your children.
December 21, 2015