I’ve always kind of hated that word: image.
It conjures in me some kind of fake mask of perfection. I find this repelling. (insert puke emoji)
I just can’t stand that fakeness – that pretending like everything is hunky dory when it definitely isn’t. That need to have it together or be doing super well at everything – my image, how people see me. Ugh.
It’s probably because I can’t ever seem to live up to what I want to be. Maybe it’s because I’ve had negative experiences with others pretending like everything is fine when it really isn’t, and therefore avoiding coming to a peaceful conclusion, sitting forever in discontent. If you don’t acknowledge it, maybe it’ll go away! Or, it’ll fester and spread like cancer.
These negative feelings related to this dirty word poisoned me toward people at a young age. I distinctly remember blissful happiness in childhood, and then total disregard for me or anything I had to offer starting around age 12. Fine, I thought, if you don’t think I’m worth your time, then you aren’t worth mine either.
For years (YEARS!), I lived with this feeling. I don’t like humans. People are rude and annoying and hurtful and self-centered and I’d rather just NOT with all of them.
Then this one time in college, my friend Jill, who was (is) very beautiful and very loved and very wonderful, said, “I just love people.” I was like, WHAT? There are people who LOVE people? What is this? How can you love people? They are the worst. And I also thought, well, you love people, and people sure like you, so maybe there’s something to this whole loving people thing?
I started thinking about it a lot. I was torn between my desire to be real and my desire to actually care about and love people. But loving people is dirty business. It involves overlooking some nasty, irritating, or frustrating traits that nearly all of them have. But I was determined.
Now, I’m summing up here, but this was a very long process for me. It’s hard business to come to terms with seeing something beautiful in every human you encounter. In case this is a struggle for you – you know, to love, say:
- that guy that can’t stop talking about himself…
- that woman who says something awkward every time she speaks and totally halts all further conversation…
- the kid who is screaming bloody murder in the grocery store when you were hoping for peace and quiet
- that person who won’t apologize for the way they hurt you…
- the person who hurt your feelings and has no idea…
- the one who won’t stop complaining 24/7…
- the driver who just cut you off…
- your teenage child who won’t look you in your eye because PHONES SOCIAL MEDIA MILLENIALS (insert other 2018 swear words)…
Again, in case this is a struggle for you, I have some thoughts.
People can be enormously frustrating. Pair that with our own insecurities and our desire to be better than we are, and you have the double whammy of “sinful other people” and “sinful self” that is sure to result in discord.
I was reading this article on Washington Post that was discussing the differences in biometric technology, specificially between fingerprinting and using heartbeat technology. I was floored. I didn’t know that every person has a unique heartbeat rhythm that can be documented. Apparently they do. So in addition to every single finger on every single person in the entire universe being different, every person having unique personalities that are affected and adjusted by their unique experiences (even identical twins who literally come from the very same egg and sperm can look incredibly distinct and have such different qualities), every person’s heartbeat rhythm is also unique. Be still my ever-loving musical heart.
GOD. DON’T. MAKE. NO. JUNK.
In fact, God says that people are created in His image. One of my favorite songs says it best: “I can see your heart 8 billion different ways.” My goodness, do I love that lyric. Why is it so hard to grasp that when we look at people – ANY PERSON – we are looking at the image of God? How holy. How incredible. How unique. How special. Every person you see, EVER, is the only one of that person that will ever exist.
We tend to value people for accomplistments, talents, skill sets, brains, conventional beauty, or because they click with and are similar to us in some way. But what if we start taking a different approach? Any person’s simple existence is a chance to see God’s heart. God made that person with unique gifts, a perfectly strange combination that isn’t like anyone else. Don’t you see the value? Totally one of a kind. This isn’t like the original Blackie beanie baby in 1996 – there aren’t like 10,000 originals so you have to get your hands on it. Every person is only ONE. ONE of ONE. It is crazy!
You, friend, have inherent value JUST BECAUSE YOU EXIST. The God of all creation, who made such beautiful, amazing things as sunsets and bees and oceans and galaxies and ants and those freaky weird fish that light up in the bottom of the ocean thought it was important to make a YOU. You were made by God with a purpose in mind.
And oh. How he loves you. I’m moved just thinking about it. He sees all the best in you, and he sees that sinful nature, too. He sees your aches to be different and your pride for that thing you do so well. He sees your tendency to scream at your kids and then feel utter shame. He sees your voice raised to him in joyful song. He sees your doubts and your fears and your wishes and your dreams and your scars and your pinky toes and your gray hair strands, and he loves every bit of you. So desperately.
Desperately enough, that even though we deserve to be separated from him because we can’t measure up, he left the glory of Heaven to sit among us, teach us, walk with us, heal us, and love us right here. And then he was wrongly blamed by someone who should have been a friend and took on what we deserved to the point of utter humiliation, embarrassment, and death. And then he was raised from the dead, overcoming it all.
So that you don’t have to be without him.
Don’t you see? You were paid for by God. He traded himself for you.
He didn’t trade himself for no junk.
It’s been a slow, slow time for me to start to grasp this, and, of course, I still forget so often. It is a steady practice to look into someone’s face and think to yourself “Image of God. Made and paid. I’m seeing God’s heart 8 billion ways.” But oh, friend, does it change everything when you do!
See yourself this way. See others this way. It changes everything.