Skip to main content

Image of God

Even though I grew up in the Quaker tradition, I don’t think I was a very good Quaker.  But I was also not a bad Quaker.  In retrospect I probably would say in most ways I simply was not a Quaker.  I was a normal, middle class farm kid whose parents went to church like most of the families I knew.  “Going to church” in my case, meant going to Quaker meeting, as we called it.  If that is what you do every Sunday, it is easy to assume that is normal!
If I had gone to a Methodist church or a Catholic church, I would have claimed that as my identity: I would have been Methodist or Catholic.  In all likelihood I would not have been any better at being Methodist or Catholic than I was at being Quaker.  Going to church was what people did.  But that did not make it important or, even, relevant in my life.  After all, I was clear that basketball and girls were more important and, certainly, more relevant!
Things began to change for me late in high school.  There was nothing dramatic---certainly no crisis.  But that is the time in my life when I began seriously to think about what I would do in life.  There were many people in my family and circle of friends who had different ideas for my life.  And in some ways I probably listened too closely and tried too hard to live into their dreams for me.  That usually does not work!
I dutifully went off to college and began to work on the dreams others had for me.  But my heart was not in it.  Paradoxically even if I succeeded in managing their dream in my life, I would be a failure.  I would not be me!  This did not come as a revelation.  It crept into my consciousness and awareness.  Little by little I started to realize I was aiming to live someone else’s life.
And that led me to a precipice.  I did not know who I was.  In fact, I had no clue!  Of course, I had a bunch of answers and descriptors that I used to tell people who I was.  But they were like clothes someone else had given me.  Down deep, I did not know who I was and I did not know what I wanted to do.  Being in college was not answering that at all.  So I quit!
I quit college and began learning.  Apparently, I don’t get big bolts of revelation or enlightenment.  My discoveries and learnings seem to come at daylight rather than in the light of day.  I began to notice there was an inner emptiness that lurked below all the activities, beyond all family and friends, and above any dream I might conjure for myself.
I started to suspect that we are not “man-made” as the popular myth would have it.  We probably are not “woman-made” either, if we use inclusive language.  Suspicions like this one launched my genuine spiritual search.  I realized that a spiritual search is not the same thing as going to church.  Of course, going to church might aid the spiritual search, but the two are not the same.  My spiritual search was my quest for who I would be and what I might do.  In other words the spiritual search was my quest for identity and purpose.  I have been on this quest ever since.
To my surprise and sadness, I also realized how ignorant I was.  Going to church did not mean I had learned a thing.  Oh, I suppose I had learned a few things.  I knew about Noah and the ark.  I knew a few other things from the Bible, but they were random things that served no real purpose.  They were of no help on this spiritual search.  To my surprise, I realized I knew about God…but I did not know God!
 But this part was crucial.  Maybe I was not “man-made.”  If not that, perhaps I was  “God-made.”  That made more sense.  At that point something from some Sunday School class crept back into my mind.  Those original creation stories in Genesis talked about humanity being created in the image of God.  That’s it, I realized.  I am a person created in the image of God.
Suddenly, I knew I had hit upon the identity question.  I know who I am: I am a creature of God.  I image the divinity…and so do you!  I am a treasure in an earthen vessel.  Maybe that is my real purpose in life: to be that treasure.  My goal is to be worth something in that sense.  Of course, that is not a specific assignment.  But whatever specific assignment I take on---or is given to me---has to be “treasure-living” as the image of God.
I did not realize all this in a moment or, even, a short period of time.  It began at the dawn of my spiritual search and has continued throughout the daytime of my life.  I fully expect it to last until the dusk of my life and on into the night of my death.  It has been a wonderful spiritual search…and I am still on the way.

Popular posts from this blog

I-Thou Relationships

Those of us who have read theology or, perhaps, those who are people of faith and are old enough might well recognize this title as a reminder of the late Jewish philosopher and theologian, Martin Buber.I remember reading Buber’s book, I and Thou, when I was in college in the 1960s.It was already a famous book by then.I am not sure I fully understood it, but that would not be the last time I read it.It has been a while since I looked at the book.
Buber came up in a conversation with a friend who asked if I had seen the recent article by David Brooks?I had not seen it, but when I was told about it, I knew I would quickly locate and read that piece.I very much like what Brooks decides to write about and what he contributes to societal conversation.I wish more people read him and took him seriously. Brooks’ article focused on the 2016 contentious election.He provocatively suggests, “Read Buber, Not the Polls!”I think Brooks puts it well when he said that Buber “devoted his whole career …

Inward Journey and Outward Pilgrimage

There are so many different ways to think about the spiritual life.And of course, in our country there are so many different variations of religious experiences.There are liberals and conservatives.There are fundamentalists and Pentecostals.Besides the dizzying variety of Christian traditions, there are many different non-Christian traditions.There are the major traditions, such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and so on.There are the slightly more obscure traditions, such as Sikhism, Jainism, etc.And then there are more fringe groups and, even, pseudo-religions. There are defining doctrines and religious practices.Some of these are specific to a particular tradition or a few traditions, such as the koan, which is used in Zen Buddhism for example.Other defining doctrines or practices are common across the religious board.Something like meditation would be a good example.Christians meditate; Buddhists meditate.And other groups practice this spiritual discipline. A favorite way I like to …

A Pain is not a Pain

A rose may be a rose, but a pain is not a pain.  Maybe somebody has said that before, but I have never heard it.  So I am assuming (for the moment) I made it up.  Of course, most of us have heard that line, “a rose is a rose.”  I don’t know who said it first or if I should give it a footnote, but I do know that I did not create that line.  Furthermore, we all could explain what the phrase, a rose is a rose, means.

However, if I say, “a pain is not a pain,” the reader may not be too sure what I mean by that.  And if the reader is unsure, he or she does not know whether to agree with me or say balderdash!  So let me explain it by some development.

For sure, every adult knows what pain means.  It is difficult to imagine living into adulthood and not experiencing some kind of pain.  There is physical pain; we all know this.  There is emotional pain----a pain many people know all too well…and others may barely know.  There may be something like spiritual pain, but this one is tricky.  Not …