CORErecovery: Out of the Valley- How defining your image can help you recover

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

We all have heard this verse.  If someone asks, we know to say, “Man is created in God’s image.”  But do we truly understand this?  Do we even consider ourselves like Adam and Eve, hand-crafted by God?  And how does this affect our ability to recover?

It is easy to flippantly quote this verse and others like it but do we believe it?  Do we really believe that, like Adam and Eve, God created us intentionally and for a purpose?  For me, I can say I thought I believed this, but I was really in denial.  I had this vague notion that God created everything, but not in a personal way.  I felt like God was too big, too far away, uninvolved.  But today’s verse reminds us that we are created “in his own image”.  God took the time to consider us, to model us after Him.  This wasn’t a magic trick, this was a deliberate design.  Other scriptures refer to the care that God takes with us in our creation.  Here are just a few:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. Psalm 139:15-16

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus… Ephesians 2:10a

Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel Jeremiah 18:6b

All of these verses speak to the care God takes in creating us.  We are knit together, woven.  Nothing about us was unknown or left to chance.  Shaped and molded in His image.  Of all of the creations of God, we are the only one with this distinction.

As we lay in the depths of the valley of dry bones, the despair of our eating disorder.  We question this.  How can I be made in His image?  He is perfect, I am not.  He is good, I am not.  Maybe we say, “I may have been made in His image, but I have screwed that up!  Look at me!! (Or DON’T look at me!)”

Let’s take a deeper look here at the phrase, “in His Image” and then apply this to what this means for how we perceive ourselves, our own image.

The Hebrew words for “image” and “likeness” mean:

Image: tzelem– shadow or reflection

Likeness: demus– similar

Ok, so we are a reflection of God, we are similar to Him.  This does not mean we are copies of God since He does not have a body or shape.  Wait, what?  How can we be made in His image if He doesn’t have a shape?  If “In his Image” doesn’t mean my body is like His body, what does it mean and how can knowing that help me?

For years in recovery I thought of the “in His image” declaration in physical terms:

God created me in his image, I am like Him. My body is formed by God.  He does not make mistakes.  My body is not a mistake. 

I believe those things are all true, but I think I was missing the more important point.  I was still focusing on my body as the main part of me.  Yet, the Bible tells me this is not God’s focus when He looks at us:

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

If God looks at our hearts instead of our outward appearance, perhaps that is what is made in His image!  Like God, we are created to be relational, we are created to love!  When we reflect God’s image, we are reflecting His love to others.

The word “image” also can mean “shadow”…We have two ways we can think about ourselves in this context:

  1. Yep, that’s me, a shadow, insignificant, hiding in a corner.  Dark, blurry inconsequential shrouded in secrets…taking up space, yet not taking up space.
  2. Yep, that is me.  I am God’s shadow.  I am standing so close to Him that His Light casts a comforting refuge to those around me.  In my shadow others become aware of His Light.

When we think about being made in God’s image, we have a choice.  We can believe we are an insignificant castoff or a purposeful shadow allowing His Light to shine.  I think I prefer the latter!

So how does that help us in our recovery? By knowing we are made “in His image” for the purpose of reflecting His light, His Love, we can begin, LIKE Him, to look toward our hearts.

In my own recovery, it wasn’t until I did this that I realized that in my effort to become more like the physical worldly image, my heart had begun to look less like His.  I really began to feel like I was in a dry valley of bones…no shadow, no refuge.  As I lay in this open valley, God’s light exposed me; it shone right through my self-created image.  And just like the Lord did in Ezekiel’s valley, He began to send His Holy Spirit to bring me life.  Just like Adam, from dry nothingness to completeness “in His image.”  Not to stand there and look pretty, but to move out of the valley toward His promises for me.

Breathing In (Bible Study)

What do you think about when you hear “created in His image”? Is this a comforting thought or intimidating? Do you believe this to be true for you?

Which of these descriptions would you use to explain you as a creation/God as creator?

a.  God is like a watchmaker…he makes things and then sets them in motion.  We are on our own after that.

b.  God is a potter.  He carefully crafts each work with a specific use in mind.  I am uniquely created to serve Him in some way.

c.  I am not sure God even knows I exist.  I still feel distant from Him

Do you feel like you are able to live ‘in His image’?  What helps you do this?  What hinders you from it?

Look up Psalm 139 in a couple of translations if possible.  Turn this Psalm into a personal prayer and pray it daily.  Write down any insights that you have about this Psalm.

Breathing Out (Prayer)

Heavenly Father, my Creator, my Maker.  I am humbled to know that I am created in Your Image.  Although I do not feel worthy of this, I accept the Gift of my life that you have given me.  I want to learn more about you so that I may know more about myself as the reflection of Your Image.  Please send Your Holy Spirit to bring me back to the life you have created for me to have.  Help me to move toward that life by walking in your Light.  And Father, as I do this, may I cast the shadow of Your Love on those around me.  Amen.

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