Look At All The Tiny Mirrors

kitten_lion_mirrorGod is not like us but we are like Him.
God is not like us, but we are made in His image.

I have often made the mistake of thinking that being like Him means I can look at Him and see myself. But this is not true. In fact, it is so incredibly NOT true, that the earth should shake with the weight of its falsehood. It’s a falsehood, and it’s weighty because so many of us have bought into it at one time or another.

We buy into it and then we make God small. We look at Him and think we see ourselves — our anger, our selfishness, our weaknesses. But God is not like us.

He does not get angry like we do. He is not selfish like we are. He is far from weak.

When we fail and fail and fail some more, He does not get frustrated, angry with surprise that we still haven’t gotten it right. He does not turn His head in disgust because His expectations of us are unmet. Frustration, surprise, disgust, unmet expectations – these are not characteristics of God, they are characteristics of US and He is not like us. We are like Him but He is nothing like us.

His desire to be worshiped and loved by us is not motivated by selfishness or conceit; it’s motivated by love of the strongest and purest kind, love that knows that our ultimate happiness will be found when we delight in Him — delight, which IS love and worship. He desires our love and worship because He desires our joy. He wants us to experience joy and He has created us to be most fulfilled in Him. But I have bought into the lie before, that God desires – no, demands – worship because He is the Ultimate Selfish Being. And I shudder that I have ever thought such an atrocity. The most beautiful thing is the way God has loved me DURING my own atrociousness. Is that selfish of Him, to love me when I am thinking the absolute worst of Him that I ever could? No, it’s love, it’s love, it’s love. He loves me selflessly even while I shake my fist and accuse Him of being selfish for wanting me to delight in Him…But He is not selfish and He is not conceited. He is not like us.

He is not weak like we are, incapable of changing this evil world, incapable of assuaging all pain. I look at Him sometimes and think I see myself; I think I see Him failing to overcome evil with good, failing to heal hurts and comfort the broken. But He is not failing at that, I’M failing at that. He is, every day, working good out of evil (who can do that??), turning Satan’s horrible acts into vessels of love and hope (really! Who can do that??) and He has even promised that, in the very end, He will make ALL THINGS RIGHT. Now, He is either the worst kind of liar or He is a majestically powerful Being who is capable of strength that could turn every last atom of my physical existence inside out. He could do that, but He doesn’t because He loves me. He makes it very clear in His word that He HATES sin, hates it and He will destroy His enemies with a vengeance, and EVEN THOUGH I have sinned terribly against Him, more than once, He doesn’t turn my atoms inside out — He loves me. Do you know what that’s called? Do you know what it’s called when strength is restrained? It’s called gentleness.

God is not like us. He is not sinful, He is not self-seeking, He is not condescending, He is not mean or cruel or hateful.
But we are like Him, made in His image, so that everywhere you look are little mirrors walking around, mirrors reflecting God’s Person.

His creativity, demonstrated through millions of painters, dancers, sculptors, and architects.
His physical strength and capabilities, demonstrated through base jumpers, breakdancers, gymnasts, and athletes.
His nurturing and compassion, demonstrated through nurses, mothers, pastors, and The Good Samaritans that pop up in every disaster.
His talent, demonstrated through musicians, vocalists, composers, and conductors.

We love because He loved first.

We love art and music because God loved art and music first.
We love creating things in groups and with our bodies because God loved creating things first.

God is not like us, but we are like Him. Look around you and see all the tiny mirrors, the laughing, the dancing, the practical jokes, the hugs, the romance, the reaching out, the creative expression. Look at all the tiny mirrors and see tiny reflections of God.

Tiny reflections of a powerful, larger-than-the-universe, creative Being who LOVES…

This God loves me.

He loves you, too.

I know this more fully than I know anything else and I do not know it fully enough.

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How To Save A Life

I had to re-pot a plant for my mom today. It was very root-bound, producing far more plant than the poor pot could handle. I ended up with two plants, instead of one. It made me think of people, and how often we over-cram our lives full of things that are inherently good and beneficial but end up stifling our growth. How much plant can one pot hold? It can hold a lot, actually, but it shouldn’t, because it’s not good for the plant. How many commitments can one life hold? I certainly know from experience that a life can hold quite a few commitments — but I also know how destructive it can be when there’s too much going on. Too many people, too many hobbies, too many obligations, too many distractions. Too many roots, not enough soil. Something is going to die. What’s dying in your life because you have too much going on? Are there things you can delegate to a new pot?

While I was sifting the dirt for roots and laying aside the ones that could be re-planted, my four-year-old daughter took note of what I was doing. She was horrified. “Mommy! Why are you ruining Gramma’s plant??” I couldn’t help but smile. It really did look like I was ruining Gramma’s plant. How often has it looked like God is ruining my life? But is that in keeping with what I know His character to be? If my daughter had taken the time to reason it out, even at age four, she probably could have figured out that it was out of character for me to ruin something that belonged to someone else. In reality, I was doing the exact opposite; I was bringing freedom to the healthy parts of the plant and sifting the dead parts out. Sometimes it feels like God is ruining my life when really, He’s just freeing me up. Taking out the dead stuff and leaving the healthy stuff behind to grow and spread out a little bit. Fresh air, spacious soil. It’s a painful process but a soul feels so much better — freer — when it’s over.

I was tempted to rush, because I wanted to see the finished product. Not surprisingly, I often try to rush God, too. “Let’s go! I want to be finished already! Process is boring, hard, tedious, painful, TOO LONG.” I’m thankful that God isn’t manipulated by my foolish desires and fleshly impatience. He takes exactly the amount of time that’s needed to properly sift, patiently dig, productively plant.

When I was done, I had a good-sized pile of dirt, roots, and broken stems. My original plan was to put all of it in the trash. But the process of sifting had revealed that there were a lot of root systems still capable of producing sprouts. I couldn’t bear to throw them in the garbage, but there was no room in the pots. So I went outside and found a nice patch of grass out of the way of mowing paths and spread it all out, hopeful that it would sprout in warmer weather. It reminds me of something my aunt told me once, during a particularly rough time in my life: “God wastes nothing.” Not the extra soil, not the myriad roots, not the broken stems. He uses all of it somewhere, often out of my sight and unbeknownst to me, always to His glory and for our good.

Today, I discovered another way that I take after my Father — I like to garden! He’s profoundly better at it, but that’s a good thing. It provides just the motivation that this stubborn and rebellious child needs to ask God to kneel in the dirt with her. Of course He’s delighted to, on one condition — do I trust Him enough to do what He says, even if it doesn’t make sense? Today…I do.

And so the digging begins.

Making God Really Real

One of the hardest things for me, growing up, was being unable to see God as a flesh and blood person. I’m very relational, and I connect best with people face-to-face. Nevertheless, in spite of this handicap in my relating to God, I’ve grown tremendously in faith and in my understanding of His Word over the years.

Recently, He has started to unveil Himself to me, in ways that make Him “really real”. One of those ways was through the revelation that people “being made in His image” indicates that we can learn a lot about Him simply by looking at the neutral and positive aspects of males and females. (The negative aspects reflect sin’s effect on His perfect creation.)

There’s a little exercise I like to do now, where I pick a friend or family member and examine them for the ways in which they reveal the image of God. I’ll show you what I mean and then you can do it for yourself; you’ll see how real God gets! :)

1. God loves to color. He has quite the artistic streak, actually. He can sculpt, paint, draw…but He doesn’t brag about it or make you feel bad if you can’t do those things. And He loves putting His stuff out there for other people to enjoy, without signing His name all over it in giant letters. I learned this from my friend Noble.

2. God has tremendous insights into people and what they’re *really* about. He sees the hidden reasons behave certain ways and He understands what our strengths and weaknesses are. He won’t hesitate to give us insight into the people we’re trying to love, if we just take a minute to ask Him for it. I learned all this from my friend Siobhan. She has an uncanny ability to see into people and it makes her less judgmental and more compassionate than the average person — definitely the image of God.

3. He loves it when people tell stories about Him. He’s quick to chime in with His Word and make sure we have all the details right and He even loves to take us a little deeper into the story, if we show the slightest interest. I learned this from my daughter. She loves hearing us tell stories about her and she’ll even reveal parts of the story we didn’t know about when it seems like we’re sincerely interested.

4. He has a *great* sense of humor. He loves to laugh and He loves to make other people laugh. He relishes a long story with an excellent punchline and if you want to hear a favorite, He doesn’t mind telling it again. I learned this from my daddy.
5. He loves to provide for us and even take it a step further, surprising us with little gifts that we don’t technically NEED…they just make life a little more pleasant. And He loves it when we receive these gifts with joy, excitement and gratitude. It bums Him out a little bit when we don’t notice a gift or we complain because it wasn’t quite what we were hoping for. I learned this from my husband.

6. God has mothering characteristics, even though He’s taught us to refer to Him in the male person. He loves creating life and He loves taking care of it. You’re His favorite creation but so am I — just in a different way. It breaks His heart when we make choices that hurt us. He wants to spare us from the consequences — and sometimes, in His mercy, He does — but most of the time, out of love and a desire for our ultimate well-being, He allows us to suffer the consequences of the choices we make. But He’s quick to soothe us, even in the suffering we bring on ourselves. I learned this from my friend, Kari-Lynn, and from being a mother myself.

7. Did you know that Jesus intercedes for us in prayer and the Holy Spirit prays with us, when we don’t know what to say or how to say it? I’ve actually known this about God for a long time but just recently, He’s further revealed this part of Himself through my friendship with Kristen. She is always willing to pray for me when I ask her to, and she often prays for my requests in ways I hadn’t even thought of doing. I’ve taken to asking Jesus to pray for me when I’m feeling especially overwhelmed or “beside myself”. And I am immensely comforted when I’m struggling to pray for someone my heart is heavy for because I know that the Holy Spirit is lifting up my requests in ways I hadn’t even thought of doing.

I could go on and on. There are so many people in my life who reflect the character of God — the music minister at my church who loves music so much, he can’t stand still; my grandmother in California who generously lavished a trip to Disney on us ‘just because’; my friend Becky who makes time for me even though she has a MILLIONTY things on her plate right now — on and on and on, people who reveal aspects of God’s personality and character, making Him really real in ways I never experienced before.

Nothing puts me in better spirits than to examine the image of God all around me *and* to realize how many wonderful people He’s put in my life!

Try this exercise yourself and see if it doesn’t put a little more joy in your day. ;)