This past weekend, Becky and I (and our fabulous co-horts, Lisa Wells and Amy St. John) were privileged to lead our church’s women’s retreat. The vision for the retreat came to Becky last year and through much prayer and many, many hours of planning, coordinating, etc., she saw her vision come to fruition in a beautiful way.
Becky chose the topic of living imago dei (as image bearers of God), and early in the summer in one of our leaders meetings, I was chosen to teach a session Saturday morning and preach Sunday morning. So I started the absorption phase of teaching and wanted to share the resources with you that were helpful to me this summer as I prepared. I’ll share my Saturday morning in another post soon. There is a link to purchase these books on Amazon if you click on the pictures.
The first book I came across was “Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image” by Hannah Anderson, which happened to turn up on my Facebook newsfeed the day before I was heading off on vacation, so I purchased it on my Kindle. It was providential, because I actually had time to read it! In this interview, Hannah explains that she wrote the book because she observed the struggle that many Christian women were having “to find fulfillment in their roles and family structures alone,” and the sheer majority of women’s Bible studies are framed entirely around gender so that essentially, we are being taught “that sanctification means becoming a certain type of woman, not being conformed to Christ’s image.” The book explores how living imago dei means finding our supreme source of identity and existence “from Him and through Him and to Him” (Acts 17). Hannah includes an excellent study guide in the indexes that could be used for group study or individuals. I highly recommend this book.
When I finished “Made for More,” Becky loaned Richard Pratt’s “Designed for Dignity” to me with the promise that it would be one of those rare, life-changing books. Pratt is Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, but he writes deep theological truths “with great humility, simplicity, and honesty” (Steve Brown quote on the back of the book). The book is essentially about realizing your full potential to live out God’s image by living with dignity, and by bringing glory to God. Each chapter develops a different aspect of living with dignity, as the Bible reveals what it is to be human, and there is a concluding paragraph with study questions for each chapter, enhancing personal or group study. Unlike Hannah Anderson’s book, this one was not geared specifically to women and it was helpful to frame the dialogue on living imago dei apart from gender. Another high recommendation.
I came across this book on the used bookstore porch and picked it up for a whopping 25 cents. I vaguely remember hearing a reference to Frankl’s writing in a Tim Keller sermon, so I was curious. The first half of this short book describes Frankl’s horrifying experiences as a Jewish prisoner in four concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Dachau (two profoundly moving stops my brother and I made during our backpacking tour in 2002). As a doctor of psychiatry, Frankl was able to study the mental condition of his fellow prisoners, as well as his own stages of shock, distress, numbness, etc. He observed that man could live with dignity despite his circumstances if he had a meaning to cling to, and post-war, he developed a new school of psychiatry called logotherapy, which the American Journal of Psychiatry called “the most significant thinking since Freud and Adler.” On the back of book, it reads “A profound revelation born out of Dr. Frankl’s years as a prisoner in Auschwitz and other concentration camps, logotherapy is a modern and positive approach to the mentally or spiritually disturbed personality. Stressing man’s freedom to transcend suffering and find a meaning to his life regardless of his circumstances, it is a theory which, since its conception, has exercised a tremendous influence upon the entire field of psychiatry and psychology.”
I couldn’t put “Man’s Search for Meaning” down! Frankl’s description of suffering in concentration camps was so riveting, and the shorter second part describing logotherapy was equally fascinating. Towards the end, Frankl says, “As logotherapy teaches, there are three main avenues on which one arrives at meaning in life. The first is by creating a work or by doing a deed. The second is by experiencing something or encountering someone; in orther words, meaning can be found not only in work but also in love….Most important, however, is the third avenue to meaning in life: even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation, facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself, may grow beyond himself, and by so doing, change himself. He may turn a personal tragedy into a triumph.”
In addition to those books, I also found the following sermons and articles helpful in thinking through living imago dei. This sermon, “Healing Our Image of God and Ourselves,” by Brennan Manning, was probably more influential than any other resource I turned to, as it crystalized the message of living in the image of God with the emphasis on God’s love for us:
And also Henri Nouwen’s beautiful sermon series on The Life of the Beloved (please pardon the long intro and breaks in between his 8 short sermons):
Finally, “Ex Good Christian Women” is a fantastic article by Pastor Kathy Escobar that discusses how women are hurt and enslaved by the cultural constraints on what it means to be a “good Christian woman.” Her descriptions of “good Christian women” and “ex-good Christian women” struck a nerve with the retreat ladies.
I’ll share how these resources came together into a talk on living imago dei soon. 🙂
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