Friday, April 20, 2012

On Being Image Bearers

          I’ve been thinking and hearing a lot about the term “Image Bearers” lately, but I'd never thought much about how it applied to me. Charlotte Mason taught that children are not merely containers into which we dump information, but rather, persons and image bearers of God. This sounds so simple, and yet can radically change our approach to education and parenting, once we dwell on it. Then recently, I read an Aesop’s Fable that hit me so hard in the head that I could scarcely stop myself from giving a sermon to my 8-year-old. Luckily for him, I managed restraint and am sharing it here instead.

          The fable was about a donkey carrying a sacred image to a temple (only the word donkey wasn’t used, and we’ve had some talks about the appropriateness of this other word in everyday conversation). The donkey was all decked out with “garlands and gorgeous trappings,” and led a grand procession of priests and pages through the streets. As they passed, the watching people reverently bowed or fell to their knees before the image. The donkey, seeing their adoration and assuming it was for him, “became so puffed up with pride and vanity that he halted and started to bray loudly,” bringing a prompt beating from his driver, along with the admonition,

          “Go along with you, you stupid donkey. The honor is not meant for you, but for the image you are carrying.”

          Whoa – that’s where I got hit in the head. Perhaps to understand why reading this affected me so, you need to know that I’d been struggling with something for which I would have liked recognition. Ever have something you’ve worked really, really hard at, and you hoped that someone would notice it? It’s a people-pleasing tendency to be sure, and a desire for outside input to validate worth; not something to be proud of, but there it is and I’m guessing I’m not alone in it.

          And yet here, in this children’s story (which was really written for adults), was a moral for me: “The honor is not meant for you, but for the image you are carrying.”

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen. 1.27)

          As image bearers, we get the enormous privilege of representing God, and the option of choosing to bring Him glory. Shouldn’t I always hope to be clothed in Him, rather than my own skin and self, so that what shines through is God, and not the “garlands and gorgeous trappings” of external things or achievements? Sometimes, I forget, and want a pat on the back. Sometimes, I forget that privilege of carrying something so precious and profound.

I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

 Isaiah 61: 9-11

          What a crazy honor to be given! We’re not defined by where we came from, what we’ve done, how we look, choices we’ve made or what we’re thinking right now, today. We’re image bearers of God. Wow. I’m hoping to remember the picture of that donkey foolishly braying, the next time I’m longing for an “atta boy,” and praying I might, instead, direct the attention to the image I'm so blessed to carry.

Wishing you a beautiful day, and

Trusting in Him,


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