Reflected in God
If I ever wonder what I look like, or if I’ve forgotten, then I go and get a mirror. In the same way, if I want to find out who I am, I need someone or something that can show me who I am.
I think it’s got something to do with the fact that the context I’m in shows me who I am, by mirroring how I’m perceived by others and what role I have.
Sometimes I make the mistake of comparing Instagram content with how my life is, but at other times I go to the right place, to God, so that He can reflect back to me who I am. This shows me that although we can’t avoid the question, ‘Who am I?’, we can choose where to go to find the answer.
Identity in relationship
When people hear the Bible story presented, they hear that they are created by God. As in all Bible presentations, they will hear something foundational about who we are: we are created as male and female in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). This is a deep truth: it asserts that we only find our identity in our relationship to someone else, that this ‘someone else’ is divine, and that we can only be true to this identity in cooperation with people who are different from us.
Let’s start with the last point: the creation of man (mankind). Genesis chapter one tells us that God created man, but in the translation from Hebrew to other languages we lose some of the meaning: God (plural) created (singular verb form) man. A plural, triune God, was in such deep unity with Himself that He acted as if He were one person, and created man. This thought is repeated, and so highlighted, by saying that God created man and woman in His image. This means that we can only really reflect who God is in relation to people who are different from ourselves. We can’t mirror a God who relates to people without involving another person: you can’t show mercy without having someone who can receive the expression of mercy. You can’t show compassion without having someone who can receive compassion. Love, which is at the centre of all God does, always needs an object.
Paul repeats this thought in 1 Corinthians 13, when he encourages the Corinthians, who were not in unity, to focus on what is true spirituality – to love one another. This is no vague, undefined love, but love that is expressed in concrete ways. Think about the repeated emphasis the Bible gives to helping widows, orphans, and those in difficult circumstances. Think about the cross. This love is not about simply observing the world at a distance, albeit with tender feelings.
Biblical love is active and raw, it suffers and always relates to others.
In the same way, we need other people in order to express who we are meant to be, which in turn means that we will only find out who we are when we’re loved by others, are loving towards others, and act on this love. If we say ‘I am created in the image of God’ then we lose an important aspect of it, because we are forgetting that other people also have to be part of this sentence in order for it to be totally biblical. I think ‘we are created in the image of God’ is a more biblical way to express it.
The right mirror
In Genesis 1:27 we are told that we can’t discover who we are based on ourselves alone. Identity is always defined in relation to other people. So it is biblical to find our identity based on what other people say, but social media is the wrong place to look. It is the wrong place to ask the question, and only leads to the wrong answer. In order to see my true self, I have to have the right mirror. I think this is the reason that worship, confirming and agreeing with God about who He is, is one of the best ways to find out who we ourselves are.
God knows me
Jesus explained this by saying that it’s only when you lose your life for His sake that you find it. This is perhaps because when we understand who Jesus is, we will willingly give our lives to Him who is a smarter and better Lord than we can ever be, and in this way, when we relate to Him as the good king He is, we will find out who we ourselves are and who we were created to be.
I don’t need to show a skill I have, or behave in a certain way. God knows me already and asks me to live out love in the way that only I can, and then that which is within me will be expressed.
Sometimes we talk about having our identity ‘in Christ’. This can easily be perceived as if I have to go to Jesus continually and ask Him to reveal to me who I am. But if we keep in mind that Christ shows us what true humanity is, instead of just a personality test, then the focus is taken off me and turned to Christ Himself. I think this is what is meant by ‘in Christ’ – to simply look at Jesus to discover what true humanity is.
Revealed and loved
When we look at Christ, we will be able to let go of our defences, and be reflected in Him as in a mirror. We can trust Him to reflect us in a fair and loving way. In 1 Corinthians 8 Paul writes to the Corinthians about their pride, the knowledge of God they think they have. His solution to the problem isn’t that they need the right knowledge, but that they need to be known by God (1 Corinthians 8:3). To be known by God is another way of saying that we need to stand naked in front of the mirror that reflects all our impurities and shortcomings. We need to be willing to be known both on the inside and on the outside, as it is only by experiencing being embraced and accepted for who we are, that we actually dare to see ourselves. When we see ‘the real me’, warts and all, and know that we are accepted, we can live from the depth of who we are, and not from the surface, because the deep part has been seen and accepted. If our lives only exist on social media apps, we will always wonder if we are good enough, slim enough, beautiful enough or young enough. We won’t be able to love and accept others if they aren’t also good enough, slim enough and so on, because no one has ever had the chance to accept us.
God is the true mirror, not only because He created us in His image, but because He can see us for who we are, and unconditionally embrace us and love us. Social media can never do that.
Written by Anna Wagner. Published with permission from Mot Målet, YWAM Norway’s magazine.