Meditation Monday: Made in the Image, Growing into the Likeness of God

by Christine Sine
The Secret Garden Tsawwassen

by Christine Sine

Last week I read a fascinating article The Image and the Likeness by Justin Coutts of New Eden Ministry. He contends that we are made in the image of God, infused with a seed of the divine presence but that we must then grow into the likeness, the character of God. I was particularly struck by his reminder that the human story begins in goodness. All of creation is proclaimed good, but humanity is not only good but “very good”. He then goes on the quote from the Irish monk Columbanus:

“Moses wrote in the Law, ‘God made man in his own image and likeness.’ Consider, I beg you, the weight of these words: God, the all-powerful, invisible, unfathomable, ineffable, and unsearchable, when making man of clay, ennobled him with the dignity of his image. What does the human race have in common with God? What does earth have in common with spirit? For God is spirit. It is a great honour that God bestowed on men and women the image of his eternity and likeness to his own character.”

As I read this I was overwhelmed by both the responsibility and the wonder of who we are. I am not quite sure what it meant to Columbanus to be made in the image of eternity, but I am intrigued by the thought that we are created to grow into the likeness of God’s character. I love Coutts belief that we are not created complete:

To grow into the likeness of God’s character is the completion of our creation. God has left our creation incomplete on purpose so that we may grow and learn. A new baby is a potential and not a finished product. This incompleteness is a blessing which allows us to not only receive goodness but also bestow it. When we grow into kindness we become like God but when we turn away from kindness we do violence to our own souls.

Coutts words encouraged me to do a spiritual audit. What are the characteristics of God that I most want to grow into? What do I think it means for me to grow into the likeness of God? This has been my focus over the last few days. Not surprisingly 1 Corinthians 13 came to mind as I feel that this is one of the most beautiful statements of the character of God. So I read it several times, slowly, while asking myself  “What are the characteristics of God that I feel God is encouraging me to grow into?:

Love is patient; love is kind. Love isn’t envious, doesn’t boast, brag, or strut about. There’s no arrogance in love; it’s never rude, crude, or indecent—it’s not self-absorbed. Love isn’t easily upset. Love doesn’t tally wrongs or celebrate injustice; but truth—yes, truth—is love’s delight! Love puts up with anything and everything that comes along; it trusts, hopes, and endures no matter what. (From Voice Translation)

Loving, just, patient, a lover of truth, hopeful, kind, trusting God, these are the characteristics that I want to reach out and grab hold of. Then my mind moved to other characteristics God is developing in me, ones that I have worked hard to cultivate in my life over the last 30 years in particular. I think these too are essential aspects of the character of God:

Creativity – I did not grow up thinking of myself as a particularly creative person, but God keeps unveiling new places of creative expression in my life. It is an exciting journey of exploration and discovery, of joy and wonder that continues to draw me closer to my loving God. I have discovered my love for rock painting, poetry writing, contemplative garden making and many other creative gifts God planted in my soul and nourished until I allowed them to be revealed.

Compassion – this is not always an easy one to grow into, especially in the world in which we live in which climate change disasters, and the prevalence of war often leave us with a fatigue and resignation towards those who are victims of abuse, injustice and disaster. Maintaining not only an attitude of compassion, but to be willing to reach out with compassionate care to those who are in need of comfort, support and assistance is not easy.

Generosity – I see this as one of the central characteristics of God, one that I continue to learn as I harvest the abundance in the garden each year. God’s economy is one of abundance and generosity – enough for our own needs and an abundance to share. The more generous I am towards others the more God seems to lavish on us to share.

Hospitality – Our God is a hospitable God and invites us to be hospitable too. We see it in the wild produce that grows around us for us to pick – here in the Pacific NW blackberries, salmonberries, elderberries, mushrooms and much more. And God’s invitation to hospitality is not just for us to reach out to people we know, but to strangers and even to creation. God encourages us to welcome all the creatures of this good and beautiful creation through learning to live more sustainably and make room and comfortable habitats for all creatures.

Contemplation and silence – these gifts from God seem to go hand in hand. I love the story of 1 Kings 19 where Elijah is in a cave  when God passes by. The Eternal One is not found in the wind or the storm or the earthquake but in the sound of sheer silence or as The Voice calls it a gentle quiet voice in the midst of a calm breeze. Learning to grow into the God who is found in silence and gentle quiet voices continues to be one of the biggest challenges of my spiritual life.

I think my list of Godly characteristics I want to acquire could go on and on. I relish the idea of spending my life growing into the likeness of God. It is a joy, a delight and a huge privilege and responsibility. What do you think? What Godly characteristics do you want to cultivate in your life in order to grow into the likeness of God?


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