STEPHANIE HUBACH | CONTRIBUTOR Elementary school seems to be the time period when we learn all about different forms of communication. Letter writing. Short stories. Poetry. My younger son Tim, who has Down syndrome, once graced me with a school Valentine poem/project that read something like this: Roses are blue, violets are red. Be careful this crocodile, doesn’t bite off your head. That’s the kind of poetry that only an 8-year-old boy can create. (Thank goodness Hallmark doesn’t hire 8-year-old boys to write their Valentine cards!) One poetic form that I remember learning, and that the Bible actually employs in the Psalms, is the acrostic. Miriam Webster defines an acrostic this way: “a composition usually in verse in which sets of letters (such as the initial or final letters of the lines) taken in order form a word or phrase or a regular sequence of letters of the alphabet.” Over the years, I’ve written many pieces on the image of God. For a change of pace this time, let’s try an acrostic. Acrostics can make it easy to remember things—so maybe this format will help all of us to remember, throughout the year, what it means to be created in the image of God. I.M.A.G.E.
ELIZABETH GARN|GUEST I stood in the corner, watching the women around me laugh like old friends, and hoping that I wouldn’t make a fool of myself. Not all women’s ministry gatherings were this hard, but I was a new seminary student and these women were student wives. Soon-to-be pastor’s wives. They seemed godly, poised, and were preparing for important ministry roles. I was awkward, nervous, and still figuring things out. The women that day were welcoming, but no matter how friendly they were, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t belong. It was an awful feeling, but it wasn’t a matter of kindness, it was a matter of comparison. You see, when I walked into that room, I compared myself to all the other women and determined that I was lacking. I wasn’t outgoing, pretty, or holy enough to be a part of that group. I decided they couldn’t possibly like me, and it hurt. Comparison does that. It’s messy and painful and leaves a wake of destruction in its path. Unfortunately, it’s also extremely common. The Crush of Comparison When we compare ourselves to the people around us, we’re evaluating and ranking them to decide where we, and they, stand in relation to everyone else. We compare our marriages, parenting, or our careers. Anything we do becomes fair game when we compare ourselves and, in the process, someone always gets hurt. Sometimes we hurt others because comparison causes us to judge them harshly. Other times, however, we get hurt because we decide we’re not enough. Every time, community is destroyed. There are lots of different reasons we compare ourselves, but for many of us, the cause is rooted in our purpose. When we don’t understand who God created us to be, we fall back on ideas that we have created ourselves. We watch other people around us, take in messages from books and talks, even observe the women in the Bible, and create our own picture of what a godly woman looks like. We start to focus on what we think we’re supposed to do, ways we’re supposed to contribute, rather than focusing on who God is. We invent standards and then hold ourselves and others up to that; we compare, and the result is wounded hearts, broken relationships, and destroyed community...
ELIZABETH GARN|GUEST There are times when I hear my name called from another room or when my phone dings with another email, that my shoulders droop and I let out a long, exhausted sigh. Someone needs me again. I don’t know if you’ve felt this way, but trying to juggle work, a pandemic, family life, and everything else that needs my attention can be exhausting. These days, I often feel like I’m needed all day long. And while being needed is wonderful, it’s also hard. Needed implies deadlines, expectations, and a constant stream of things that require my attention. It’s nice to be needed and I love the life that God has given me. But I have also found that as nice as it is to be needed, I long to be wanted more. Wanted, not for what I can do, but simply for being me. For a long time, I felt this way about my relationship with God as well. I thought he created me because he needed someone to worship him or fill some void. I thought he had a list of things he needed me to accomplish for him; that he needed me to serve him. Somewhere along the way, I came to believe that my purpose as a child of God was about what I do. It’s an exhausting, defeating, and discouraging way to live and I found myself constantly striving to do enough. I found hope, however, when I learned that we aren’t needed by God, instead, we are very, very wanted. The Beauty of “us” Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” In this verse, the Triune God pauses the creation narrative to announce what he’s about to do— he is going to create humans. It’s one of my favorite passages in the whole Bible. It’s laden with hope, meaning, and purpose. God is going to create us and he’s going to do it for a very specific reason: we are going to be his images on the earth. We will reflect him, represent him, and declare his glory to the whole earth. It’s the heart of our purpose!...
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