Made in the Image

In class the other day we were trying to uncover the root of the world’s problem with its treatment of sexuality.

We discussed how people are taught that sex is impure and how we need to suffocate sexual drive because it’s disgusting. We traded stories of how some grew up believing that any physical contact in romantic relationships, including holding hands, or simple pecks, was just as horrible and sinful as having sex. We bounced off countless different ideas and reasons but we all agreed: there is a problem with how we discuss sex, both in the church and in secular culture.

Personally, I believe it’s because we’ve let discussions of sex distract us from taking hold of what our worth is according to God. It’s difficult to read of the sacrifice Christ made for us and run after it because we don’t believe we deserve it, or because we believe we have to do something in order to get it, which therefore makes it all seem unattainable. We’ve written it into our nature that we must try our best to make ourselves worthy of the gift we don’t deserve but in the end it always turns us against each other.

So we look at others and ourselves and we give up on trying to fit in with God’s definition of our worth because we know we don’t fit it without Christ but we want to try anyways. We begin to change what we give each other and how we look at each other because we have tried to rationalize an irrational gift, a gift no one has the right to but a gift we want everyone to try and earn.

So instead, we make our flawed human characteristics our identities. We focus on sex because we’ve decided it defines our being because it makes us man or woman and then we judge each other based on our treatment of this joyful, intimate union turned stoic sacrament. We so desperately need something to justify our actions against the actions of others, because it’s easier to point out someone’s flaws than offer them their undeserved gift and because it makes us feel a little more worthy of it. It’s easier to label a woman as a whore because it feels more powerful to lord over her. It’s simpler to label a man as an uncontrollable sexual being because we’re worried about wearying ourselves out by getting involved in his mistreatment of women. We learn to hate ourselves for our sex drives because it’s easier to hide in shame than accept the relenting forgiveness freely offered to us.

“It’s who we are” we belabor, “we cannot change the way we were made.”

But how were we made?

Genesis 1:27 says “So God created man in his own image, / in the image of God he created him; / male and female he created them.”

But it would be unjust to stop there so we must continue reading,

“And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…’”

And that’s where we finish our reading and when stop reading there we teach that God’s main purpose for us was to fill the earth or, in simpler terms, have sex and make children so those children can grow up, have sex and make more children. But that sounds like the nature of animals, and are we not a higher being than they? Thus the question returns and yearns for an answer, what is our purpose?

I would argue that the most important part comes right after we stop reading because Moses, in the retelling of the history of the beginning goes on to recount God’s words…

“And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ And God Said, ‘Behold I have given you every planet yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green planet for food.’ And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good.”

And again, in Genesis 2 man’s creation is recounted along with his purpose for being on earth, “to work and keep it” (2:15).

So if anything, after reading all that, I would argue that we’ve established one thing: that our main purpose on this earth isn’t to fill it with children by having sex but to take care of the creation God has lain down before us and to enjoy its (literal) fruits. I find further evidence of this because we, unlike some other species on this earth, do not die off immediately after giving birth. And so although we may have been given sex as a way to provide us with offspring, I would hope we would being convinced, even unconsciously,  that it’s the centrality of our lives.

But now that we’ve figured out our purpose, I have to wonder, what is it that makes us created in the image of God?

I could argue that its our rationality, that, scientifically speaking its because we have the most developed brain and body, a brain that allows us to be artists, engineers, musicians, and scientists. A brain that not only has the capability to know but can turn knowledge into wisdom and a body that has the ability, when paired with the mind, to create. While these things are all good and true and never to be discounted or washed over, I think there’s something bigger we often gloss over.

I believe that greater feature is our capability to rule, the ability to have leadership and authority over other beings and creatures. The power to choose to use either grace and love or fear and coercion to gain the obedience and loyalty of a targeted party. And, most importantly, in our authority we find the ability to name those before us, which could be the greatest power of them all because identity is often found in a person’s name, Yahweh himself certainly displayed this.

In these past few years, I have learned that the more something is mentioned in the Bible, the more important it tends to be and the more I need to pay attention. When I consider the amount of time spent detailing what man has dominion over in Genesis 1 and 2 and I look throughout the New Testament and find that all the commandments boil down to either loving God or loving his people because of the radical grace lavished upon us, I have a hard time thinking that my identity is rooted chiefly in my ability to think and create. Because if we are being honest, most of the things I think, and most of the things I create aren’t worth being paid attention to because of the sin that so easily twists them from good to bad. And even more so, because most often, I am asked to follow, to relinquish my right to choose, to think for myself, and to create my own path in exchange for all the Lord has in store.

Similarly, when I look at the importance of names throughout the Bible, discovering that a change in name signified either a declaration of identity or a change of identity I can no longer turn towards the culture that desperately and daily tries to change my name from worthy to worthless.

My identity rests in the grace I have been given and the opportunity to give that same grace out to others. It rests in the name I have been given through the sacrifice: beloved, cherished, holy, worthy. It does not rest in my body, it does not rest in my mental capabilities, and it most certainly does not, returning to the point at hand, rest in my sexuality.

Men are not hormonal beasts and women are not stoic virgins waiting to fulfill their purpose as child bearers, we must stop naming ourselves as so. We are influencers; we are grace-receivers and, therefore, grace-givers. We are beings that have the opportunity to deny calculated rationality for the animalistic relentlessness of deep, overflowing love. Not the love of romance, of sexuality, but the love of charity: a lavish gift from an unobligated giver showered upon undeserved recipients.

The solution to combating premarital sex doesn’t come from screaming abstinence and shaming physical, romantic contact without any hope for redemption once virginity has been “lost”. The solution to dealing with rape and sexual abuse isn’t to say it’s human nature, or ignore it, or withhold forgiveness from those who have chosen to engage in these crimes (this not to say we should withhold legal consequences, consequences can be given with forgiveness, it’s one of the highest but hardest forms of love). The solution is to remind humankind that it is made in the image of the one, true, unrelenting, illogical, passionate God. To stop calling our bodies our enemies and remember they’re our vessel. To stop abusing and neglecting or calling disgusting and revolting something the Lord himself gave us. To remind each other of our name: holy, worthy, beloved, for when we change our name and fall back in love with our identity, we eagerly change our lives to reflect it.

Sex is good, it was given to us for pleasure but it is not our life, as secular culture would like to convince us. It does not define our worth, as the church sometimes portrays it, and it most certainly doesn’t excuse our actions as other influences would claim.

We have a choice: to believe we are beings created with the opportunity to give ruthless grace that will not stop at anything to convince our fellow humankind that they are loved simply because they exist or to demote ourselves to animals that are ruled by their hormones and their need to survive via reproduction.

Where are you going to put your worth?

Puzzles

The puzzle of life is a beautiful thing.

Sitting next to the Father, I scour the jumbled pile of pieces looking for a connection to make sense of the mess of in front of me.

To me its a thousand, to him its like a child’s twenty-five.

Growing up, I used to think every piece I fit together was because I had searched through the muddle and found the perfect match.

Now that I’m older, I’ve realized that I’m always getting stuck and it isn’t until he pushes one up into the corner of my vision
or until I look at him with pleading eyes longing for help
that I “find” the next piece to fit in.

He’s making sure I finish the outline first, a firm foundation for the picture inside to rest upon.

And most often, when I want to work on the petals, he gives me a piece of the stem or the leaves, all equally good and necessary
but not all equally paid attention to by my fickle eyes.

And slowly but surely, piece by piece,
the puzzle starts to come together.

I’m still along way off, but at least I know its of bluebells and daphne now.

Affection

I have been seized with a great affection.
One I can only contribute to the growing knowledge of your story.

A story untold but observed.

It’s silly, to believe that the fondness I’ve developed has come from slivers of information;
snapshot interactions.

I cannot help it;
I fear my heart is much too easily swayed from frustration to tenderness.
What a terribly lovely quality to possess.

But is that not the call of affection,
to sweetly cherish and softly love?

My dear treasure,
I promise I will hold you up to the light
until I’ve found how you shine the brightest
but until then, I’ll make sure I treat you with care.

I wish there was a better way to love, one that involved a lot less of me and a lot more of Him.

Unfortunately, however, I can’t help but want to meddle and interfere.

I’m like the villain in every movie that wants to stop true loves kiss.
I’m the interrupting family member in every book who calls for supper at the most inopportune moment.

But mainly, I’m the jealous one.

The one so desperate for affection and attention that I forget its not about me but its all about Him;
so full of pride that I have the audacity to believe my love would do any good, when in truth it would only cause suffocation.

Oh the hilarity of it all, that in my love to love for Him it becomes all about me and I forget…

I forget that there is no love in me, it only comes through me.
I forget the tragedies befall those whom I choose to wrap in the thorny tendrils of my best-intentions instead of clothing them in the satins of grace and mercy.

What a mess I’ve made of myself, although unintentional the sabotage, I’ve muddied white dresses and lost the rings; such is the tale of a villainous love.

But the best stories always have redemption for the villains and I’m slowly finding mine.

a musing regarding music

“Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears” it’s a song I’ve scripted an entire movie around in my head. It’s played on repeat in my ears for days at a time and has yet to become the definition of boredom. It sings me to sleep and awakes my dreary soul. It brings me out of the darkness and refills drying the pen in hand. It’s calming, it’s pulsing, it’s me.

To say that music influences my life would be a tragedy. Music has given me breath through the terrifying moments of growing; it’s been the last string I’ve held onto as I’ve dangled off the cliffs of death and darkness. However it wasn’t music that saved my life, it achieved something greater, it brought me to Christ.

Each difficult and pivotal moment in my faith has a soundtrack or a song that plays out beside the script. In middle school, David Crowder Band’s “Never Let Go” and “Remedy” soothed my trembling spirit as I cried myself to sleep most nights, afraid of tomorrow, yearning for an end.

During my freshman year of high school while my own brother was bullying me it was “How He Loves” and anything else that I could take to numb the pain of being betrayed by my own family.

After I graduated and went into a gap-year program and learned, in September, that I had never had a relationship with Christ, I found myself weeping at His feet, overjoyed, in April, from the messages the music Les Misérables brought into my heart. A series of messages from a series of music, that finally connected the Sunday school knowledge of my brain to my soul for the beginning of a relationship with a Savior so beautiful I can’t believe I didn’t know it sooner.

Now “Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears” the song for this age, the song that found me in Florida and reflects the movements of the waves as they crash along the side of the Intracoastal, feeds my newest forms of prose and allows me to organize the clutter of emotions inside my head.

Music is the primary instrument Christ uses to radically change my life; to give it any less would be a tragedy.

Sparkle

There is a sliver of fear in every sparkle but it’s the sliver that makes the sparkle so brilliant.

Hold on to that sliver of fear, but do not let it overwhelm your soul.

Slivers of fear push us forward into hope and courage. They give our sparkles character and history. How can we grow if we have nothing to overcome?

Glimmers and glints fade too quickly. We must sparkle, it’s the most glorious way of life.

Sorrow and suffering polish our souls; they shine them into new beginnings.

It’s the sliver of fear that reminds us where we come from and why we stand where we are today. It interprets the past and beckons at the future. Fear gives our new light something to reflect off so that its impact is doubled.

For light to prevail, there must first be a darkness for it to conquer. What good is it to fight a battle against nothing?

Welcome fear into the light, so that it might be challenged and changed. Push it forward; don’t coddle it within your weary heart. Let your soul face its burden so your being might be refreshed and allowed, once again, to sparkle.

There is a newness waiting to be enjoyed.

Through verdant valleys
these restless feet roam
yearning to call this place home.

After years of separation
are unraveled by the sweet intake
of a familiar mountain air
steeped with childhood memories
and wistful whispers of the past,
the lost soul calms at last.