By: Ann L. Coker
I met her first in the waiting room of our rural crisis pregnancy center. I overheard her boyfriend speak into her sad face: “I can’t believe you think you might have some disease. Who else have you been with?”
As I talked with this 16-yr-old in the counseling room, I tried to get across how much she’s worth: “The image you have of yourself or what others impose upon you is off-center.”
I went on to say, “You're made in the image of God who demonstrated His love for you by sending His Son to take away your sins.”
She listened but gave no response. We made an appointment for her to return for STD test results.
At our next visit I told this client I had some questions of my own. “When I said, ‘We are made in the image of God,’ what does that mean? It is stated thus in the Bible; it’s what God said when He created Adam and Eve. But how are we to understand this?”
I read aloud the Genesis passage from the New Living Translation of the Bible:
Then God said, ‘Let us make people in our image, to be like ourselves. They will be masters over all life—the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the livestock, wild animals, and small animals.’ So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after himself; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)
I resolved to learn (for clients and me) what it means to be created in the image of God.
God made us to be little sovereigns over the earth. A better understanding of who God is gives meaning to our being created in His image.
I found a book on my shelf: In His Image, co-authored by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey. Dr. Brand was a surgeon who spent his life reconstructing hands for patients of leprosy in India and America. Brand and Yancey wrote about being made in the image of God, comparing our physical body with the Body of Christ, the Church.
Young women seen at our centers need to know that they are worth far more than they realize. They are living their lives in quiet desperation. They do not know the rules; they do not have a standard of measurement; they do not even know the ruler is in their tool box.
Only Christ can make the difference. He has made them in His image, the likeness of Himself.
We see an image of ourselves in a mirror, but that is only a reflection. It’s what the mirror captures. It’s called a mirror image because it’s how others see our features. It is not real, yet it is not imaginary. It is not the “real you,” for that cannot be captured in a mirror.
Take for example a person who has been seriously deformed in an accident or during the war. After surgical reconstruction his mirror image had been altered. Dr. Brand tells of a soldier who learned instead to look toward his wife: “She became my mirror. She gave me a new image of myself” (p. 28).
I have yearned for a new image to be reflected in many of our clients.
As I waited for a client during an appointment, her mother asked me why I spent time with her daughter. It was as though she thought her daughter could not be worth my time.
When the daughter arrived, the mother gave her what I call an off-handed compliment: “How did you get your hair to look that nice?”
The girl made no response. Her personal image had been repeatedly marred by such put-downs from family members. Now she reached out for help and received affirmation at the center. I had the opportunity to offer her a new sense of worth as she invited me into her inner world.
It's been my privilege to watch counselors “look through that shell” of humanity that comes in our doors and to “acknowledge their inherent human worth, the image of God inside” (Brand, p. 30). In my memory bank I’ve kept the image of one counselor who reached out and touched the arm of an overweight client wearing a dirty, torn tee-shirt. I saw in that counselor’s face the evidence of love and compassion as it reached out and reflected in her client.
God sent His Son in the flesh to be the power and authority of the Church, His Body. “He establishes His presence in the world through people like us. In a mysterious way He has chosen to make our prayers, our actions, our proclamation of His truth His chief means of communicating Himself into the world of matter” (Brand, pp. 133-134).
In this way God has confined Himself to be seen and heard through His people. We are chosen to be His witnesses in the world. We have a great work to do. As Dr. Brand put it, “Each of us has the potential to help summon up in the people we meet the image of God, the spark of Godlikeness in the human spirit” (p. 33).
Let’s get to work. It’s worth it.
Credits: Holy Bible, New Living Translation
© 1996 by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; and Dr. Paul Brand & Philip Yancey, co-authors of In His Image
, © 1984, published by Zondervan Publishing House, pp. 28, 30, 33, 133-134.
Ann L. Coker began as a volunteer at the Crisis Pregnancy Center of the Wabash Valley, located in Terre Haute, Indiana. After ten years she went on staff as Client Services Director, first at the main center and then at one in Brazil, IN. She retired in 2008 but continues pro-life work as a board member of the Wabash Valley Right to Life.
Posted in: Volunteers
, Ann L. Coker