So why does it matter if you know the features of the face of Jesus? Or if you understand that the spirit of God must be formed? If you've been reading along, maybe by now you wonder what difference it makes.
Simply put, all the difference in the world. And we know this from the outset of Genesis:
Then God made man in His image. In the image of God, He created them.
You are made in the image of God. Then by definition, it can only enhance your life to pay attention to what that God looks like.
Let's go back to the question I posed last Thursday, talking about the face of the Savior. Remember that I said it's not enough to know the facade of the Man; you must look intimately into His features if you can hope to understand His story. The same is true of you. Can you tell me what you look like?
Not that you have brown hair and dark eyes and that little mole on your right cheek that seems some days darker than others. Not that you have blonde hair and hazel eyes and your grandmother's nose. When you look at yourself in the mirror, you have to look beyond what it is that might distinguish you from the crowd. You have to look beyond the simple facade that would tell me how to know you if I passed you on the street. You have to look deeper into your story and understand how you came to look this way. Just like the Savior, your features betray your secrets. They tell your story. Do you know your story?
Do you have the wrinkles that say you're a man who's been up many nights, torn between faith and worry? Do you have a scar that reminds you of a broken moment? Do you remember that moment? Are your eyes glassed over with the troubles of this place or can you still see eternity behind them? These are the questions we must consider when looking at ourselves.
There is a verse in James that says something about a man who looks at himself in the mirror, then walks away and forgets what he looks like. James wasn't talking about the simple facade; he was talking about the features. He was talking about a man who looks at himself, walks away, and forgets his story. If you forget your story, you're going to have a hard way in this world. That's just the truth of it. But when you remember to look with the same eyes that squint to see the Savior, you rediscover what you're telling with your life.
And let's go back to Friday, too, to the question I posed about the spirit of God. Is it formed or unformed? Does God simply expand to fill all of the empty spaces, or is there a measure of definition to Him that allows you to know what He looks like? Many of us are asking the same question about ourselves: are we simply expanding to fill all of our spaces or is there something defining about our personalities, our lives? Can we be drawn in by the lines of our own words, or lives? Can we be known or must we just trust that we, too, work in mysterious ways?
It sounds silly, right? Imagine for a minute having that conversation with someone. You do something or say something or something happens, and they look at you incredulously and ask, What did you do that for? And you simply look up, ponder for a second, and declare, I work in mysterious ways. Nobody's going to buy that for long. Because the truth is that man is drawn in by his own lines. He is defined by certain characteristics that make him who he is. The more we get to know a man, the more we see clearly his edges. The more his shape comes into view. The question that man then has to ask himself is, what do I look like?
Which brings us back to Genesis - we're supposed to look like God. We are supposed to have features that narrate our story, that remind us of where we've been and point us toward where we're going and betray the very things that have shaped and influenced us. We are supposed to have a formed essence, clearly defined lines that tell us who we are and what we do (and what we don't do). And if those features and that essence is supposed to draw us back to God, supposed to show the presence of God in our lives, then it is of critical importance that we discipline ourselves to pay attention to these very same features and this very same spirit of God.
Otherwise, how does anything look like anything? If you look in the mirror and look like a man, you're selling yourself short and one has to wonder if it is because you do not know yourself....or because you do not know your God.
There are many among us, and most of us at any given time, searching for meaning in this world. Searching for meaning in our very hearts. There's this myth that we come better before God when we know who we are, that we have to figure ourselves out first if we want any hope of relationship with Him. But the opposite of this is true: if we're searching for meaning, if we're trying to figure out what all of this means, then we must know God first. We cannot look at God through the eyes with which we see ourselves; we will only ever see our figment of our God.
We must, rather, look at ourselves through the eyes with which we see God. Then, we shall see both men more clearly - the Son and the prodigal.