I want to propose that being created in God’s image means that we know something of what God knows, at least in our deepest selves, that we have some divine capacity within us that can know God at least in part and be deeply connected to God. It does not mean that God is a bigger, more powerful version of a human being. When we talk about a person’s soul or spirit we are talking about that divine spark or blueprint within each person that needs to be activated for our whole, fulfilled lives to emerge. I think of this “place” in us as the deep-soul self. It is the place where God communicates to us and we communicate to God, where we can experience God’s presence, where the created talents and even shortcomings are seen as strengths that God needs on the world stage, if we can but realize them.
If we are made in God’s image, then we are also created to want to belong to God, to return to God, to love the Divine Being who created us. There is a built-in longing within each of us to fulfill this essential need. The deep-soul self wants to live in God. But today, since our culture is so materially oriented, we misunderstand what would fulfill this longing in us. Everything in our culture says that if we only had a bigger house, the right car or the right person, then we would feel complete, fulfilled.
When this need is not met by material things, we are tortured by a restlessness for something. We don’t know what, but we do know that in some basic way our life is unfulfilled. It’s easier to observe in others, I think, because we’re so good at concealing our basic motives from ourselves. We notice that one person is always shopping, another is hooked on drugs, another drinks too much, another wallows in negativity, another can’t see beyond her own version of reality or other “passion” or addiction. We see it desperately in some spirituality or the restless seeking for a church that will be a true home or in the perfectionistic following of the Christian “rules.” The basic need for fulfillment of the self can only be met through a deep connection to God.
When I was in my twenties, I thought “If I just have the right clothes,” then I’ll be okay. Others have sought fulfillment through climbing the ladder to success only to find emptiness at the top. How do you seek the fulfillment of this basic need for true connectedness to your creator? It’s actually the simplest of things to do, yet we overlook it because 1) we’re used to controlling how we do everything and 2) because it is deceptively simple. And what is this secret, hidden knowledge? It is to love your life as it is constituted right now: to love what has been given to you as if it was a total gift handed to you by God.
It means giving up the cultural paradigm of a material answer to this restlessness. It means turning our search for things outside to fulfill us into an inner search for meaning and purpose and fulfillment. It means following God’s lead in your life and letting God show you how you can be who you were in fact designed to be.
It means accepting the pain of our existence and the joy, too. This is not a passive stance towards life; it means processing what happens to us, expressing grief, anger, fear, whatever gets between us and loving our lives, loving God. This is not for sissies; it takes courage to face life head-on without our expectations and preconceptions for what it should be and accepting it for what it is right now. It means living in the present, not the past or the future.
It means asking the question “what do I really need?” or “what do I really want” over and over again, each time at a deeper and deeper level until there is an answer that resonates at the deepest level. It means giving up the Pharisees’ approach of perfectly following all the rules, in favor of something greater, deeper. It means not looking to someone else or something else to save us. It means turning to God himself, to the deep-soul self as your source, not to how someone else interprets God or the Scriptures. This is uncharted waters unless you have read some of the mystical literature of Christianity’s past and of other religions as well. If you seek true satisfaction and fulfillment in your life, the way is laid out by God. The blueprint is already within us, imbedded at our creation. God knows it, but we have to discover what he placed deep in our souls. God is the goal and the way. We need her help in showing us the way to her arms.
I want to apologize to you for any suggestion that this is easy. It is not. It is a sea change, a total change in how we orient our lives. We have to move from a small-me-thinking to a broader perspective. We have to change from a me-orientation to a God-orientation. We have to give up the illusion that we have control of our lives. We have to surrender to a higher good, another vision of life itself. Increasingly, as we are successful at the small surrenders to what is, we come under the reign of the kingdom; then, when the tsunamis of life overtake us, they may rattle the cage, but they don’t pull us under.
To love, to accept our lives as they are is to live them fully, with hope, grace, gratitude and love, to live the image of God.