Most of us are familiar with the concept that we were created in the image of God, but what exactly does that mean? Do we physically resemble the Divine? Does God have fingers, toes, and a belly button? Probably not.
In his book, “Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander”, Trappist Monk Thomas Merton famously wrote,
“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world. . . .
“This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. . . . I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.
“Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed. . . . But this cannot be seen, only believed and ‘understood’ by a peculiar gift.”
Is it possible that Thomas Merton had some rare insight into what it might look like-with eyes of the Spirit-to be an image bearer of God? Is it possible that every single one of us is radiating with the presence and glory of God at all times? I think he was onto something.
I believe that what Merton had eyes to see-at least in that moment-was humanity’s true self. Just imagine how our lives would change if we could see ourselves the way that God sees us-beautiful, free, significant, whole, and healed. What would that do for our insecurities? How would that change the way we interact with others?
We carry our personal pain and trauma deep within and it manifests in a hundred different ways. Personally, I am often impatient, demanding, jealous, and resentful when living out of my pain. Obviously, this negatively impacts each of my relationships and creates stress and insecurity where there should be peace and freedom.
In this second half of life, I am finding that the more I intentionally center my thoughts and self around who I really am-an image bearer of God-the more freedom I experience from the imposter that I often pretend to be. I’m grateful for those rare moments of clarity in which I see myself and those around me for who we really are-the beloved of God.
I’m finding this meditation helpful in this season. Perhaps it will be of use to you as well.
I have the DNA of the Divine.
Love is the fiber of my being.
I have come from love, live in love, and will one day return to love.
I radiate the love and presence of God.
I am free from every weight of concern and hindrance to the purposes of love.
I have eyes to see everyone I encounter today as a beloved child of God.
I will celebrate the breathtaking image of the Divine in everyone I meet today.
May you have eyes to see the breathtaking beauty of you today.
Have you ever seen humanity as Thomas Merton described above?
Have you noticed any specific distractions that keep you from living out of your belovedness?
What practices have you found helpful in keeping you centered?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments.