Are You an Image Builder or an Image Bearer?

JUDIE PUCKETT|GUEST

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Romans 8:29

I confess to you that I am an Image Builder.

I want you to notice me…so I build my image.

I want you to accept meso I build my image.

I want you to love me…so I build my image.

Build. Build. Build.

I think there’s a little part of all of us (and sometimes a big part) that longs to be noticed, appreciated, or even admired. So, we work hard to show only our best side, to reveal what we think looks impressive, and to create an image that appears to be perfect. We sometimes put pressure on ourselves to be perfect. We tell ourselves that we need to work harder, stay up later, get up earlier, read more, learn more, exercise more, post more on social media. The list goes on and on. All the while, the image making continues. It’s a drive that is never satisfied. It continually whispers, “You need to do better; you need to be better.” Image building is exhausting and burdensome.

Build. Build. Build.

The longing to be accepted can drive image building too. Building the perfect image, or even just a good one, can not only demand a tyranny of labor, but may require some hiding too. Maybe you too have gone down this trail of thinking, “If you really knew me, you wouldn’t accept me. How could you? I really know me and some days I don’t even like me.” So, we sometimes do everything we can to conceal our weaknesses and sin, hide our insecurities and flaws, and mask our fears. The desire for approval and acceptance trumps the risk of being truly and fully known. Ironically, the hunger for the acceptance found in true community, lures us into isolation. The fear of exposure threatens rejection.

Build. Build. Build.

Perhaps even more than being noticed or accepted, we long to be loved. In this place of vulnerability, we often fall prey to believing the lie that our value is based on what we do. It’s easy for us to connect performance with affection for that has, at times, been our own experience. We have been guilty of withholding affection and care when those we trust have disappointed or failed us. Likewise, we have been the recipients of conditional love. As a result, we may fear that if we let go of image making, and if we admit our weaknesses and insecurities, we will not be loved. Fear is powerful. Fear is real.

Build. Build. Build.

Image building is exhausting, it is isolating, and it is a breeding ground for fear. I’ve learned this well.

But’s here is what I’m also learning.

Image building always fails to deliver. Always. That’s the nature of sin; it promises what it cannot deliver and offers what it cannot provide.

Image building is not the same as image bearing.

Image building says the key to being noticed, accepted, and loved comes from something inside of me. The desire to be noticed, accepted, and loved are not evil longings. They are hungers that are meant to be fully satisfied. But, the satisfaction of those desires isn’t found in me or in any image I can create. It’s found outside of me. It is only found in the One who has made me His. The Gospel reminds me that Christ alone can satisfy those deep longings…and He does.

For He does notice me, “I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought of me” (Psalm 40:17). I am on His mind.

He does accept me because through His death and resurrection, the Son has guaranteed the Father’s approval of me.  And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (Colossians 1:21-22).

And He does love me. Nothing in all of creation, not even my image building heart, can separate me from His love (Romans 8:38-39).

When my satisfaction is found in the love that Christ has for me and my identity in Him, I am free to reflect His image instead of struggling to build my own. Reflecting His image brings rest because His perfection is my inheritance. Image bearing invites me to be a part of a community because our Triune God exists and enjoys the fullness of community and through Christ, I am united to all believers. I no longer need to hide. And finally, His love for me is so secure that fear is replaced with freedom.

Yes, I still wrestle against the lie that building my own image will satisfy the deepest longings of my heart. But, the One who calls me His, is reforming and renewing my heart and mind. I belong to Him and I am His image bearer.

About the Author:

Judie Puckett

Judie serves as the Director of Women’s Ministries at Chapelgate Presbyterian Church in Marriottsville, Maryland.  She loves studying, discussing, and teaching the Scriptures and is working toward an MA in Biblical Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary.  In addition to serving at Chapelgate, Judie has enjoyed several opportunities to speak at women’s retreats and other events during the past fifteen years.  She also loves traveling with her husband, sharing a cup of coffee with a friend, and playing games with her family. Judie and her husband Aaron live on a small family farm with their three teenage children.

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