“God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27 NIV)
At times in my life, I’ve looked in the mirror and wondered to myself, Who am I? Who is this person staring back at me? During the hardest times, I didn’t recognize the person inside. I felt like I was floundering in my own identity, sometimes wondering where my place was in the world, sometimes spiraling spiritually, sometimes both. Those times of self-doubt could be scary. I started to question my purpose, what I believed, my identity as a Christian, and my value.
Do you feel like a fish on dry land, just a few feet from the water’s edge, flopping around, searching desperately for what you need but unable to get to it? You know the edge is close. If only you could get your head in a few inches of water. If only you could find some relief, just enough to allow you some rest. You feel like you’re gasping for air, taking deep breaths, but the tightness in your chest remains.
I feel that way sometimes. I’ve come to recognize that tightness as anxiety, and it often comes when I’m floundering, wondering who I am. Genesis is the perfect place to seek identity because it’s a love letter woven throughout a saga of God’s relationship with his people. It’s full of people just like you and me, looking for who we really are, flopping in and out of the stream of God’s mercy and love. The living water is always there, but the characters choose to fling themselves away before crashing back into his grace.
This love story begins with an explosion of creation, an affirmation of life, and God’s desire for us to thrive. The thing about life and creation and relationship is that they cannot thrive unless they’re constantly moving and changing. God is not static, and neither is his creation. God moves and flows, like a river, pushing his creation to change and grow. He saw his creation and said it was good. Yet he still wasn’t done. He saved us for last, his piece de resistance.
The creation of humanity was different. Before, it was an artist working with his materials, the building blocks of life, to create something new and amazing. Now he was ready for a self-portrait. This wasn’t a self-portrait with eyes and ears and ten fingers and ten toes. This was a self-portrait of spirit. He poured into us his love, compassion, forgiveness, and mercy. He infused us with the Holy Spirit right down to our cells so that it would be passed down and down, always drawing us back to our maker, always calling us to who he intended us to be. To his image.
God sat back, looked at his work, and saw that it was good. Not perfect; good. Perfection would have meant nothing could be improved upon, nothing needed to change. God knew we couldn’t handle perfection, that we couldn’t handle his truest form. So he wove his image throughout our imperfect bodies, creating us to grow and change and to seek the image he originally planted in us.
When I look in the mirror and wonder who I am, it’s because I have gone through a season of change. Maybe I have been growing away from God, flopping myself out of the water, trying to be something I’m not. Maybe it’s because I’ve been stagnant, and my spirit feels empty from a lack of growth.
That’s when I remember it’s okay to change. The very act of asking who I am, crying out to God for answers, is the desire to recognize his image in the reflection of my soul. Although I may be prone to wander, it’s impossible to travel too far from the love of God. No matter how much I ebb and flow in finding my own identity, I cannot remove the image that has been a part of me since chapter 1 of his love story.
Photograph © Rendiansyah Nugroho, used with permission