The worship gatherings of my church plant Cypher Church look different than a conventional service. We try to engage the community outside of a sit and consume model. In its place we’ve created an approach called “Incubators” which you can read more about here. It’s an experiment in experiencing faith in a fresh vibe. We change the approach each time, and for the context of this blog post, the activity we used made the evening. We all sat in a two facing rows as we sketched one another. Each “round” of sketches added limitations that made for some interesting creations!

Here are my thoughts from the Incubator that posed a question about “self-image”.

Begin with a reading from Psalm 136.

You are a spectacle of immeasurable beauty in God’s eyes. 

Self-image is something we build for ourselves, but it’s also subject to wide scrutiny. Many of us struggle with self-image because we absorb what people say about what they see. It’s why we do our best to control the story we wish to tell. But that doesn’t make us immune from doing the same. We measure other people based on the image they project either online and in person.

Often that image can be fake. Other times it’s very real, but unacceptable to those around you.

Our image reflects our identity, and we have the power to shape and tell the story of how others will view us. Although we can’t escape how others speak to our image, we can control what we allow to form us….

The curious part about your image is that it does have a source. How much you’ve deviated from that source varies between people, but everyone bears a resemblance to the source. In the Christians faith that source is based on your striking connection to the Creator.

In Genesis 1:27 we capture a moment where the pinnacle of creation–humanity–is looked on as very good, created in the likeness and image of God. The implications are crucial to the foundation of your identity. The story of your being begins with your image bearing goodness given by God. It’s why, regardless of anything you can do, you are and remain a spectacle of immeasurable beauty in God’s eyes!

For the Lord your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears.
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. (Zephaniah 3:16)

The challenge and question we must ponder is: are we cultivating that beauty in our image?

What are you cultivating?

Sometimes we get hung up and think of image as binary. That there is good and bad, black and white, healthy and distorted. But God views you in a different way. Jesus cuts through any distortion to view your original beauty. It’s an image that can’t be stripped away.

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

That doesn’t mean you aren’t dealing with mess in your being. However, instead of thinking of your current place as evil, unworthy, or profane, think of yourself in the way Jesus does. Your innate beauty cannot be erased as the rest of your being is being restored.