i always say that i think faith community–whatever form it takes–should be a place to practice loving and being loved by God, others, and ourselves. these things don’t come naturally for many of us and so we need a training ground, a place to learn and experiment, so we can continue to form into more loving people, a deeper and brighter reflection of Christ in this world.
i believe the image of God is deeply embedded in all human beings. it’s in our core DNA. what happens, though, is life, brokenness, pain, and all kinds of other experiences can bury and attempt to extinguish this reflection. part of loving redemptive community is to uncover God’s image in each other, to call it out, to begin to notice what we sometimes can’t see, and to keep reminding each other “this is the real you. i see it.”
so many of us think that who we are in our worst moments is who we really are. we are often blinded to our good. and even if now & then we get some glimpses of it, we get amnesia and easily forget.
a friend asked me this week if he was really a perpetual f*ck up. that message has been a distinguishing part of his ongoing story & even though he’s doing some great healing work, he often still comes back to this core message in himself. i told him the truth–yes, of course, you still f things up, but at the same time, you are also such a beautiful, kind, gentle & amazing person created in the image of God bringing such lovely gifts to others in the midst of the mess. i don’t think in that moment all the lights went on and this core message was gone, but i do hope at least for a few minutes he was gently reminded that he was much more than his mistakes.
our wednesday night house of refuge is one of my favorite things each week. it’s a wild mix of young and old & married and single & kids and no kids & democrat and republican & rich and poor & liberal theologies and conservative ones & everything in between. some people who come on wednesdays are part of our weekend gathering, too, and for others, this group is their faith community. we eat together first & then rotate facilitation focused on the spiritual journey. i sometimes call it spiritual show & tell. anyone can bring whatever they want to for us to reflect on together. what i love about it is the diversity & challenge it always stirs up. i also love seeing how through each unique person, God’s image emerges. it’s really pretty.
for christmas this year i gave everyone a mirror with their name on it. we each had a sharpie & we did a crazy passing game where we wrote down what we see in each other on the mirrors. when it was all over you ended up with your own mirror & your christmas present, too. here’s a picture of mine.
i did it because it’s so easy to forget who we really are. we need reminders. we need some good medicine for our soul. we need to look at our own reflection and see the good instead of only the bad. we need to be buoyed when we start to sink. we need the image of God that’s in us to be reflected back to us.
if i’ve learned anything over the past chunk of years journeying in the trenches with people it’s that most of us are really, really bad at loving and accepting ourselves. there’s a great resistance to it. we may know certain biblical passages in our heads but it doesn’t necessarily translate into our hearts & the place we live from. one of my spiritual direction professors always reminded us “the 18 inch journey from our head to our heart is one of the longest treks we’ll ever make.”
my hope is always that over time more and more of God’s image in us is uncovered and we can learn to integrate these little nuggets of truth about who we are into the fabric of our hearts & lives in really tangible ways. and at the same time, i hope we can be dignity restorers and continue to call out God’s image in others, too, reminding others of the beauty we see.
i read this little piece today from jean vanier, one of my favorite writers on christian community. he says,
“mission is revealing to others their fundamental beauty, value and importance in the universe, their capacity to love, to grow and to do beautiful things and to meet God. mission is transmitting to people a new inner freedom and hope; it is unlocking the doors of their being so that new energies can flow; it is taking away from their shoulders the terrible yoke of fear and guilt. to give life to people is to reveal to them that they are loved just as they are by God, with the mixture of good and evil, light and darkness that is in them: that the stone in front of their tomb in which all the dirt of their lives has been hidden, can be rolled away.”
yep, he nails it. i hope we can become not only really good remind-ers to others of that image of God they bring to this world, but also people who soak in the-good-we’re-being-reminded-of, too.