Woman in the Image of God
Last Friday, Edith Schaeffer passed away at the age of 98. Despite the potential to have been overshadowed by her husband, Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer, she held her own as a writer and thinker, delivering a message of joi de vivre and teaching a generation of women that there is power in the small moments, that even things like mothering and domesticity are an expression of God’s image. She taught us that when God takes up residency, our homes will be filled with His nature—filled with art and music and beauty and wonder and hospitality and joy.
But something’s happened to Christian women in the subsequent years--something that I’m not sure even Mrs. Schaeffer herself would approve. Over the last several decades, we’ve flipped the paradigm; instead of seeing womanhood (and all that comes with it) as an expression of imago dei, we've come to see our womanhood as an end in itself. We’ve come to believe that our core sense of self rests in our gender and our ability to conform to certain paradigms. And in doing so, I’m afraid we’ve developed a bit of identity myopia.
This idea has been rolling around in my head for a while now, but I didn’t quite see it clearly, didn’t quite have the words to speak it, until one day. It was the same day that I resolved to start blogging. It was the same day that I realized that my daughter was growing up.
She was six at the time, maybe seven, and I remember this moment of awareness that she was being shaped, not simply by her school work or television, but by the routines and liturgies that were happening in our home. She was being shaped by me. Every moment of every day, she was forming an idea about what it meant to be a woman. When I put on my makeup, she put on hers. When I wrote my stories, she wrote hers in a hot pink, spiral-bound notebook. She was becoming the woman I was.
This awareness made me consider what kind of woman I wanted her to become, and I realized that it wasn’t enough to teach her simply about womanhood—I had to teach her about what it meant to be a person. What it meant to be made in God’s image. Because all that is true about my womanhood--all that is beautiful and glorious and lovely--flows out of this deeper identity. If I didn’t start there, nothing else would make sense.
At the same time, I began to observe a kind of identity myopia among my peers. I saw women desperately striving to fulfill roles. And then angrily casting them off when the weight and expectations were more than they could carry. I saw women judging those who couldn’t carry them. I saw woman fighting loneliness and a pervasive sense of loss because they were single or not yet mothers. I saw women defining themselves by their sexuality or dress size. I saw women lost and wandering, confused about who they were and what they were supposed to be.
And I knew that there had to be an answer.
There had to be a truth that could speak to all of us. There had to be a truth that could transcend all the differences, that could bring order to the chaos. And that truth was this: each of us is made in God’s image and we will never be at peace until we live in it.
You see, being made in God’s image does more than establish the equality of all people (although is does); it is does more than simply level the playing field between men and women (although it does); it does more than argue for the sanctity of human life (although it does). Understanding that you are made in the image of God gives you a way to finally make sense of your life, to finally know who you are.
To know that your nature flows from His, to know that your identity mirrors His, to know that “in Him you live and move and have your being” to know that you are destined to be like Him, to know that He will move heaven and earth until you are.
This is what it means to live imago dei. This is what it means to be human.
And this is what Jesus Christ came to do. The perfect Image became the perfect Image Bearer to restore what we have lost, to redeem what we have sold away--the bits of ourselves that we have prostituted off to smaller gods. The perfect Image became the perfect Image Bearer so that we could finally be what we were meant to be, so that we could finally be like Him.
Which brings me to the book I’m working on. When I first started talking with Moody Publishers about writing for them, one of the questions they asked was, “How do you want to influence women?”
This is how.
More than anything, I want women, I want my daughter, I want myself to understand that the point of our existence—the answer to the question “Who am I and why am I here?”—is not found simply in being a woman, but in living imago dei. Our core sense of self comes, not in our domesticity or our careers, not in our relationships or motherhood, not in our brokenness or our fears, but from God’s nature. It's not that the details are unimportant; it's that they only make sense in the scope of the larger picture. In the end, I want what Edith Schaeffer did: I want all of life--all the domesticity, all the arts, all the beauty, all the love, all the philosophy, all the theology—to flow from this central Truth:
You were made to reflect and represent God on this earth. You were made for glory.
The writing is going well; but as you might expect, it’s slow at times. Something as heavy and intricately-layered as the image of God doesn’t come easily, and it’s just like me to try take on the world in one fell swoop. And yet, even this serves as a reminder that the whole point of living imago dei is living in dependence on Him, of following Him one faltering step at a time.
As you think of it, pray for me. I don’t view this so much as “my” book or a chance “break into the market.” It is a sacred trust. It is both a privilege and a responsibility. And most days, it scares me to death.
But just as quickly as I become afraid, His Spirit comes and whispers to my quivering heart, “Do not fear, my daughter; I have made you for this. I will give you the words that you need. For this moment, for this time, this is your work; this is how you reflect and represent me. My daughter, this is what it means to live imago dei.”