We are all made in the “image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1.27). This important teaching gets brandied around quite a bit to the point that it can seem to be a cliché, just like “God is love.” Both can be used so often they become almost meaningless, even harmful if used in the wrong context.
Clichés are truths that are not thought about enough but only spoken as filler in conversation, which is why they can be somewhat mindless.
However, in prayer these terms can become something true and very meaningful. Prayer is a relationship, a becoming rooted in the reality of the presence of God and taking his call for relationship seriously.
People will often think of prayer as something to do when they are in trouble. Then they ‘ask’ and ‘ask’ and ‘ask’ for help. When things get better, they again cease to pray. God is their servant, though it is not something that is consciously thought about. The dignity and otherness of God, the vastness of ‘The-Mind-of-Christ’ is not something even considered. Yet it is a relationship of sorts and the Lord will often build upon that.
Life does have a way of bringing us to a point of revelation where from that point on our understanding of life, our reason for being here, and the importance of developing a trusting and loving relationship with God becomes more central. We discover something that was lacking.
No matter where we are in our prayer life, in our walk with God, if we truly seek to grow in love, we are then loving God to our capacity and understanding. Prayer allows for both to grow over time. In the beginning prayer may be simply something we do on a regular basis, simple prayers from a prayer book for instance. Then slowly the reality of the ‘call’ of God, that invitation to deeper relationship is entered upon.
This is the work of grace in our hearts, a slow healing and an opening of our hearts so that we can grow in self-knowledge and love ourselves in the way that Jesus commands. This is not easy. We enter on the road of letting go of victimhood, of blaming, of our defensiveness that does not allow humility to grow in our hearts.
Humility being the ability to accept and even embrace our woundedness, our sinfulness and fears, so that we can be healed, for in the light of God’s love, we slowly grown in the understanding of what keeps us from being truly loving and free.
When the Lord brings us to our knees by allowing us to grow in self knowledge, this can only happen according to our love and trust of God’s love for us. Self-knowledge is a revelation, which means it is not something new, but what has always been there but of which we were not aware.
It’s then that we begin to understand God’s mercy and compassion and in that we grow in compassion and mercy for others. As we grow closer to the Lord, we also grow closer to others, since we understand that all struggle, fail and are in need of mercy and compassion.
When we fail to allow the image of God to bloom, we only parrot what we believe and not really live it. We become ‘knotted,’ we get ourselves tied up in cycles of pain and struggle, which is a cross we fashion for ourselves that is in reality heavier than the cross that we must bear in order to grow in love and compassion for self and others.
The paradox is that it is easier to stay where we are, for whom will we be without our defenses, pain and fear? The desert is a place where there is no path, only an occasional oasis where we find refreshment. Otherwise we have to learn to grow in trust, which is a choice, and to continue in the darkness of faith.
The closer we become to living out our the image of God, the more distant God can seem since our comforting idols are dropping away one by one. However our hearts expand and we learn slowly to love God for Himself and not for what we can get out of Him. We grow up, stop being childish and become truly childlike and trusting in the love and compassion that is shown in Christ Jesus.