You Are the Image of God to Me
You wouldn’t think staring into another person’s eyes for one minute would evoke so much in so little time. I was sitting in on a Biblical Ethics class this past week at the Tennessee Women’s Prison. The assignment was simple. We were asked to partner up with the person to the right of us and look into their eyes without saying a word for one minute. Afterward, we closed our eyes, and Kate, the professor, read Genesis 1:26-27.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
As Kate read through these verses, she asked us to picture the face we just looked at for the past minute. As I closed my eyes, the girl's face was stamped securely across my mind.
“Let us make mankind in our image...”
Her eyes. Beauty in those brown almond shaped eyes. Kindness and warmth met me as she stared back into mine.
“…In our likeness…”
Her shy, unsure smile. This clearly wasn’t a “normal” activity for the both of us. I found myself taking deep breaths during the minute long exercise, trying to remain both present in my body and present to look into her eyes. Those full, big lips of hers curved upwards into the sweetest smile that made her face glow.
“…So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
Her skin. Her skin was flawless. Creamy and ebony colored. Gosh, she was stunning! As a girl who is no stranger to dermatologist appointments and topical creams to get rid of acne, I found myself both envious of her invisible pores and mesmerized, soaking in the beauty of her full, round face. Her face created in God’s own image.
After Kate had finished reading the passage from Genesis, we opened our eyes and once again looked into the person’s face. For the past two minutes, we had been studying the lines and curves, and untold stories found woven into their face. Our eyes met once again, and we both said to each other,
“You are the image of God to me.”
You are the image of God to me. Powerful words to encapsulate a powerful moment.
A reverent silence fell over the room for a few brief seconds. I looked across, and my Mom was wiping away tears from her eyes. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one who felt the sacredness of this moment.
Had it not been for the state-issued jeans and blue shirts the women wore, I doubt an onlooker would have noticed anything out of the ordinary.
I’ve thought about that girl sitting next to me a lot these past few days. That full brown face of hers won’t leave me. I’m more than okay with the sweetness of her smile meeting me in the corners of my mind from time to time. I don’t know what unfortunate events played out in her life that caused her to end up in this place. I have no doubt her story is painful, and my heart aches over what she must have gone through to get to this point. A young girl does not dream about the future and hope for her address to be at a state prison. No mother wants to see her daughter behind bars. Yet, reality often issues the harshest of sentences and there she sat.
And there she sat. In the most unfortunate of realities, she was sweetly smiling and staring right back into my eyes. She and I, we aren’t that different. As we went around the group and spoke about the experience, I shared about how I felt this was a sacred moment with the class. As Kate read through Genesis and this girls’ face placated itself in my mind, I just thought, “God delights in your face.” As I said that we both looked at each other and nervously smiled at one another.
So as I think about this girl, I think about God delighting in her face. Earlier, I mentioned she and I aren’t that different. There are a myriad of reasons, but the clearest is God also delights in my face. He finds the beauty He created there. In the way my cheeks turn rosy red at a moments notice, in the way my smile makes my eyes crinkle, in the way my freckles paint themselves across my nose and cheeks after an afternoon spent in the sun. His image is woven into the very essence of my face.
God delights in my face, and He delights in yours. He finds beauty there. “So God created mankind in His image.” What a beautiful truth for our minds and hearts to mull over.
I asked a few of my friends to finish the sentence, “Beautiful is….” Here’s what they said:
Beautiful is inviting.
Beautiful is genuine.
Beautiful is confidence in the Lord.
Beautiful is authentic.
Beautiful is bravery.
You could say that I found beauty in the most unlikely of places sitting next to that girl in the prison. Beauty and prison aren’t two words that are usually found in the same space. Yet beauty was there, staring me in the face as I mouthed back the words to her, “You are the image of God to me.” Beauty was there as the women shared their struggles in believing who God was. Beauty was there as they shared the words they wrote for their assignment about telling the truth that week. Beauty was there as they laughed together and gobbled down the skittles Kate brought them. Beauty was there as they hugged me and thanked me for coming. They thanked me. Little did they know, it is me that needed to be doing the thanking.
I was reminded anew the only address the Gospel needs is in our hearts, regardless of where we may happen to rest our heads at night. Prison bars are of no hindrance to the power of Christ. The locked off places in my own heart are of no hindrance to the power of Christ. Beauty can be found in any corner of the world, regardless of how dark it may seem.
“Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:12
God, I pray we would be people who see beauty not as the world sees, but as called-out, hope-filled people of the Cross. I pray we would look into one another’s eyes and when we do, we would see the Imago Dei (image of God) in them. I pray for the grace that when we look into our own eyes, we would see the Imago Dei too. Amen.
Written by Blake Snyder
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