Monday, August 14, 2017

In the Image of God

Some who read my post on Friday about a Christian response to transgenderism may be upset. They may say that I don't go far enough in saying that God created the transgender person the way he/she is, but that the way that I phrased it still implies that transgenderism is a brokenness, an aberration, a fallenness. Perhaps even a sin. 

I hear you. Please know that I hear you. 

I hear you because I wrestled with that myself. I read those words, and they stung, and I'm not even wrestling with any transgender issues in my own life. But here's the thing: I honestly don't know where I stand on this idea, and rather than put forth a dishonest theology to try to appease one side of the argument or another, I'm comfortable leaving this question open.

How much of what isn't perfect is still God's design? 

That's the question. I am...a sinner. I am a hypocrite and a coward and a sinner (among other things). I'm a work in progress, but some days, let's face it, I'm just a piece of work. I am broken, sometimes beyond my ability to even put words to it. I know when I look in the mirror that the way that I live my life is not perfect; it's not God's best for me. Even this body isn't perfect. Far from it. So am I still created in God's image? Is my brokenness part of God's design for me?

We take this far too lightly, really. We use this line to rationalize away the things in our world that we're uncomfortable with. We don't know what to make of a broken world, so we conclude that God must have made it this way. That this is His design for us. But is it? Does God make broken things?

I've talked to a lot of persons going through a lot of things, including LGBT persons, wrestling with their identity. And when it comes to a lot of things, there's one question that keeps coming up: did God make a mistake? Did God mess up when He made me?

It's not an easy question to answer. If we say yes, then we are saying that our perfect God makes mistakes. If we say no, then we must conclude that what looks and feels and troubles us like brokenness isn't really broken at all. Even if we buy into the idea that it's a choice, did God create this person to make this choice? The question is the same - has God made a mistake?

I ask the same question. I ask it when I find myself caught in the same old pattern of brokenness, caught in the same rut of my own fallenness. I ask it when I'm lying awake at night, unable to sleep because of the burden of being broken. I ask it when I'm trying to pray and can't because I don't feel worthy. I ask it when I catch myself having said one more stupid thing that wasn't love and wasn't grace. Did God mess up? Is this the image of God that I was created in?

So this is an issue that I've wrestled with a lot, as I've heard the stories of friends and family and neighbors wrestling with their identity and as I've wrestled with my own. And here's where I am:

I believe that God has created us, each and every one of us, and that He has knit us together in our mother's wombs to be a sacred representation of something essential about Him. The Word tells us that, and I wouldn't even begin to deny it. But I think that the image we are created in is marred before it is finished. When Revelation talks about being a new creation, I think it's talking about that time when we will become who God knit us together to be in the first place. 

Has God made us this way? Yes and no. He's made us who we are, and as such, each one of us carries inside of us something essential about Him, the very image of God just as He promised. The challenge is finding a way for that image to be borne in brokenness, in all the things about us that aren't what God had in mind. 

I recognize that this is theologically tenuous for many, the idea that we may not be exactly as God designed us to be. That God might not have made us exactly this way. But I think it solves the tension - at least it does, for me - of trying to figure out who I am when I know that I'm not who I feel like I should be. It gives me permission to embrace my broken self, knowing I've been knit together and that I'm already being mended and that one day, I will be who God intended me to be, by His grace. I don't have to worry so much about whether I was made this way or not because I know that He is still making me, and one day, I'll be everything He had in mind. 

Maybe this all feels like I'm dodging the question. I don't think so. Because this is actually how I interact with persons in my real life - I look for that thing that God is making in them, that something holy that He's knit together in them. I look beyond what isn't perfect and strain to see the image of God in them. I think that's how God would want me to look at them. I think that's how God looks at me. 

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