How we see ourselves has a lot to do with how we see others and how we see God. We were made in God’s image, but making God in our image is a deeply ingrained human habit. Why is this so? As I’ve said before, when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit something terrible happened. They hid from God because fear was now painting God’s face with the serpent’s brush.
What’s always interesting to me about this passage is God’s side of the conversation:
8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
9 Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? (Gen.3:8-11a *)
First, notice that Adam and Eve are the ones hiding and God is the one searching them out. Second, Adam’s reaction is one based in fear because his eyes were opened (to Satan’s interpretation) and he now saw himself and God in a whole new light. God’s will became rules to be obeyed and punishment for infractions rather than a loving Father wanting what’s best for His children.
This is how sin, the tragic flaw, which is erroneous thinking “that results in a series of events and unfavorable circumstances leading to destruction,” entered into the world.
Adam went from being a cherished son to acting like a religious orphan.
And we’ve been trying to appease God with religion ever since.
Our mimetic imaging problem
I mentioned before, from a Dr. Jim Wilder lecture on Joy Strength, that relational bonding happens in the first several months as the mother bonds with the child through smell, taste, temperature regulation, touch, visual, voice tone. Dr. Wilder goes on to say that babies will duplicate what they experience, and this will get hard-wired into their brain in how they see themselves as adults. If the person they’re looking at has a great deal of joy present, their brain structure connected to joy will begin to grow and expand, and they will have a great capacity for joy as well.
On the other hand, if the person they’re looking at is angry or emotionally detached, their ability for joy will be greatly diminished.
This mimetic imaging also affects how we perceive God and relate Him to others. In other words, an angry person will tend to project an angry God.
But we don’t need to get mad for God. Jesus actually gave us everything that mattered to Him in this passage:
29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 *)
Loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength only really starts when we finally see that this is exactly how He loves us (John 15:9-12; 17:23). Then we can grow in our capacity to receive His love. And this imaging repaints our image of ourselves.
You see, we do love others the same way we love ourselves…and we also hate others to the degree we hate ourselves.
I think a lot of theology over the years has been written by well-meaning but wounded souls projecting their issues on to God. We have angry preachers emphasizing the wrath and anger of God while totally missing His heart.
Indeed, I’m sure we all do this to a degree based on our own issues. But if God is angry, He’s only angry like a good father who hates to see his child being abused and bullied. His “wrath” is against injustice and oppression.
11 God is a fair judge, a God who is angered by injustice every day. (Psalm 7:11 GW *)
6 The Lord executes righteousness
And justice for all who are oppressed. (Psalm 103:6 *)
But His love and patience and mercy are even for those who’ve made themselves His enemies. (Matt.5:43-48).
This is why Jesus came. To reverse this human tragedy…to save us from ourselves.
The Cross of Christ was meant to heal us. We were enemies of God in our own minds. We were the ones who needed reconciling, not God. We’re the ones still counting sins against each other while God is not (Col.1:21; 2 Cor.5:19-20).
When we let God heal our fickle and wounded hearts with His infinite and unconditional love, we’ll start to love ourselves, and then we’ll finally be able to love others the same.
And that’s really been my point all along. Once we truly understand God’s heart for us, we won’t hide from Him anymore because of fear and shame. When we turn our hearts toward Him we’ll find nothing but love which drives out all the orphan-hearted fear in us. We’re healed in His presence because it’s there where we find an infinite supply of joy waiting for us.
11 You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11 *)