Category Archives: Imago Dei

The Search for Identity: Healing Our Image of God and Of Ourselves

We primarily associate the search for identity with a phase of life occurring during the teen years.  Young people are expected to be “finding themselves,” questioning the messages they receive from authority figures, pushing boundaries, etc.  My experience is showing me that the search for identity continues beyond adolescence and may be a life-long process.

We are all asking the same existential questions:

What are we about?
Why are we here?
Where are we going?

And to answer these questions, we invest our energy in these things:

We are what we do.
We are what others say about us.
We are what we have.

As long as we are experiencing success and people are saying good things about us, or we are living comfortably and enjoying good relationships, we can feel OK.  But when we face failures, when others’ disapprove of us, when we lose people and things that are dear to us, then we may experience an existential crisis.


My earth-shattering existential crisis occurred when I was 30 years old (four years ago…in case you were wondering!:).  There have been small bumps and jolts along my journey that have caused me to question things before, but at thirty I faced a tidal-wave of paradigm-shifting crap heaped up on my life that turned everything upside down and left me at ground zero.  My greatest discovery as I rebuilt my life was that I was finding my identity apart from God.  I was finding my identity in what I did, what others said about me, and what I had.  All my life, I have loved God and His Church.  But for the first time in my life, I am now living as one beloved by God.  And I am finally experiencing fullness of life and freedom in Christ!

All humans are created imago dei (in the image of God) and only in finding our identity in God can we experience life in all its fullness.  We need to recover the image of God in our lives by finding our ultimate identity in reflecting and representing God on earth – as His beloved children.

Living imago dei means finding your identity “from Him and to Him and through Him” (Romans 11:36).

To understand what it means to live imago dei, let’s first look at the Creation account in Genesis 1.  Verse 27 says,

So God created humankind in His own image, in the image
God He created them; male and female He created them.

Conservative scholars agree that the author of the book of Genesis was Moses, writing around 3,500 years ago.  This was during a time when emperors placed statues of themselves throughout their kingdoms, signifying who was in charge.  These statues would loom over town centers and were often made of precious metals and stones.

When my brother and I were backpacking through Europe, we visited a museum of communist and Nazi statues from the mid-20th century.  These huge statues had been formidable, oppressive symbols for the people who lived with them in their midst.  When Sadam Hussein’s regime fell, I have vivid memories of watching newscasts of people tearing down his statues, with tremendous effort and emotion.

Statue of Saddam being toppled in Firdos Square after the US invasion

Statue of Saddam being toppled in Firdos Square after the US invasion

When we think of these images of emperors being a normal aspect of life during the time of Moses, the beauty of God placing humankind as His image on earth is astounding.  We were created to represent God’s glory and diety on earth.  In heaven, it is clear who is in charge as God sits on His throne and is worshipped in a non-stop chorus of hosannas.  On earth, God has given us the choice to worship Him or not.  And He has given authority to humankind to rule and steward His creation.  And yet, unlike the emperors’ statues, who were made from precious metals and stones, we were made from the dust of the earth.

It is important to recognize two things about humanity from the Creation account:

1.  We are made for DIGNITY – to represent God’s glory and diety on earth
2.  We are HUMBLE creations – made from dust, not diety ourselves

Whether or not we are living our lives in devotion to God, every human being has dignity and value as image bearers of God.  This is common grace for all.  To live fully imago dei, however, goes beyond our creation as God’s image bearers.  It also means finding our identity as image bearers, living “from Him…[and] through Him.

Living imago dei means finding our source, purpose and meaning in God

There are three aspects to finding our identity as image bearers of God:

1.  Live in communion with God
2.  Live in community with others
3.  Steward creation the way God does

In struggling with our identity, we tend to start in the opposite order:

Do something…
Then ask for help from others…
Then, in a last ditch effort, quiet yourself and spend time with God.

So the first step towards living imago dei requires knowing God.

In healing our image of God, we heal our image of ourselves.


“We have seen His glory, the glory of an only Son, filled with enduring love.” (John 1:14)

“May Christ grow in your heart by faith, and may love grow…that you will be able to grasp how wide, how long, how high and how deep is God’s love which is beyond all knowledge, that you may be filled with the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God…for God is love.  By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” (1 John 4:7-9)

God is love — and you are God’s beloved!

In healing our image of God, Jesus frees us from fear of the Father and dislike of ourselves.  If not, you still have not accepted the total sufficiency of His redeeming work.


The problem: our image of God (how we see God) reflects more of our experience with humankind.


In this short video, Greg Boyd explains why it is that many of us picture God as angry and vindictive, and how any conception of God that is other than what we find in Christ is a mischaracterization:

(Or see it here:

If we do not know God, then we cannot live fully imago dei.

Not only do we believe lies about who God is – but we believe lies about who we are and where we “should” be finding our identity.  These lies come from our society at large, the media, our families, our faith communities, etc.

Stop Shoulding Yourself

Lies make us feel as though we are less than, unworthy, freaks, frauds and failures.  While God loves us as we are and not as we should be, we get a different message from society.  We “should” find our worth in our accomplishments, appearance, education, gender, feminity or masculinity, occupation, race, sexuality, social networks, spirituality, wealth, etc.

The reason these lies are so ingrained in our psyches:  SOCIALIZATION.

We are socialized to believe certain lies about our identities through three processes:

1. Modeling (how we observe others behaving)
2. Overt Instruction (how we were instructed to behave)
3. Reinforcement (positive or negative responses to our behavior)

Our socialization results in cognitive lenses through which we understand the world and ourselves.

Socialization is POWERFUL.  Through our cognitive lenses, we learn to associate or assign meaning to words in a process that occurs in one-seventh-of-a-millionth second.

For example: when we hear “woman” we may associate that (in less than one- seventh-of-a-millionth second!) with “helper.”  This association comes from the most common translation of ezer from the Creation account.

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable (ezer kenegdo) for him.'” Genesis 2:18

Early translators viewed the Bible from a cognitive lens of gender hierarchy as God’s design (through the influence of St. Augustine’s writings, who describes Plato–a philosopher who saw educated, wealthy men as the pinnacle of society who ought to govern over the women, slaves and children–as the lens through which he understood the Bible).  So although other instances of ezer throughout the Old Testament show God swooping in as a warrior in battle to “help” turn the tide towards victory, the translation chosen denotes subjection and male authority.  A truer translation of ezer kenegdo would be “corresponding strength,” with Eve as co-warrior alongside Adam.  As women, we have valuable strength to contribute to our churches, families, and communities.

These are helpful questions to begin to peel away the onion-layers of lies that have influenced our identity formation:

What are my cultural lenses?
What has my role modeling been?
What has my instruction been?
What has my reinforcement been?
How has my socialization impacted my search for identity – the purpose, meaning and goal of my life?

Christian women in Western society have been socialized to believe that a feminine, nurturing and submissive homemaker is the ideal Christian woman.  Rather than finding our identity in God and living boldly and freely as ezer-warriors in authority over Creation, we are socialized to live small, inhibited lives, so as not to rock the boat or make waves.

Kathy Escobar shared these lists on her blog, comparing Good Christian Women to Ex-Good Christian Women.  Which list do you identify with more?

i know these are generalizations, but in my experience a lot of “good-christian-women”:

  • rarely engage in conflict
  • are terrible at saying “no” because it feels selfish
  • know how to say the right things, do the right things, to keep the peace
  • continually strive–and i do mean strive–to be a better wife, better mother, better christian
  • live with a feeling that God is disappointed with us somehow
  • feel a lot of shame for who we are and who we aren’t (but rarely say it out loud)
  • doubt our leadership, feelings, gifts, dreams
  • dwell on the things we should be doing differently or better 
  • view anger as sin
  • always seek permission 

here are some characteristics of those of us with the “ex” added.  “ex-good-christian-women”:

  • are learning to show up in relationship instead of hiding
  • engage in conflict instead of avoid it
  • say “no” with less-and-less guilt and say “yes” more freely, more honestly
  • tell the truth
  • respect anger
  • are honest about shame
  • live in the present 
  • are beginning to believe we are “enough”–here, now
  • open ourselves up to dreams & passions & living out what God is stirring up in us
  • lead & love & live in all kinds of new ways, with or without permission
  • are discovering that God is much bigger than we were ever taught & loves us more than we ever knew

Our sisters, both locally and globally, need us to step into our calling as ezer-warriors, living fully and abundantly as beloved and equal daughters of God, creating a ripple effect that erodes the lies from our neighborhoods and the world at large.

Living imago dei means finding your identity
“from Him and to Him and through Him.” 

God loves you as you are, not as you should be.
We all need to learn to live for an audience of One,
and “stop shoulding on ourselves.”

The best summary I can come up with is this Love letter from Jesus:


With much love,


This post is adapted from a talk I did at a women’s retreat earlier this month.  I shared the books, sermons and articles I referenced in this post, Imago Dei Resources.

On the retreat, it was much more of a conversation with dialogue about lies that we struggle with.  Please feel free to join that conversation in our Comments section!  What lies have you been trying to peel away, that keep you from living fully imago dei?

Thanks for visiting TBKW. Please Follow us, subscribe, or “Like” us on Facebook if you’d like to keep tabs on what we’re up to.  Peace!

Beautiful and Dangerous: Body=Image; Sex=Symbol

Join Ruth and Becky as they interview Lisa Wells who is the Family Ministries Director at North Harbor Community Church in Topsham, Maine. Lisa is a gifted teacher and musician and a mom of 3 beautiful girls and is married to Dan Wells our lead pastor at North Harbor. The 8 week sermon series is called Beautiful And Dangerous. Lisa’s sermon is part 5 and is entitled, Body=Image; Sex=Symbol and the link to listen to it is here:

And here is the link to our interview:

You may also want to watch the Amy Cuddy body language talk that Lisa references.

Be blessed!!!


Am I too much? Am I not enough?

In a society where it is the unspoken rule that women work full time but have an immaculate home full of food made from scratch and well behaved children, the risk of falling short is inevitable. There comes a point in trying to make the impossible possible where we just burn out, and the lie of not being enough comes to be known as a truth in the depths of our soul. And it stings.

There is also an unspoken rule in some evangelical circles that women are welcome in ministry and dialogue as long as they are not too much. I know that myself and some of my girlfriends who have offered biblical solutions to ministry problems have been shot down simply because the solution was coming from a female. How can a female who is supposed to be submissive to men in leadership be correct? Plus, she may be having “that time of the month” so her perspective will be emotional and irrational. Yep. I have believed those lies of being too much and it has taken a lot of therapy and Holy Spirit to begin to unravel them.

So what do we do? What are our options? How do we dispel these lies? We begin by repentance for our unbelief. When we choose to hear the voice of the accuser over the Voice Of Truth we have slipped into unbelief and unbelief is sin. Let’s flesh that out.

When we think back to the Fall in Genesis, Satan grabs Eve by first posing a question that causes her to doubt God’s heart for her.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

This question implies that God is holding out on her. She then chooses to engage in the dialogue. Sometimes it is most wise to call a spade a spade and walk away. How often do we choose to engage in a dialogue with the accuser that plants the seeds of doubt that grow into unbelief in our lives? Eve acts on the premise that God is holding out on her. She believes the lie that God doesn’t fully love her and know what is best for her. And so she must take matters into her own hands to control her own destiny. She acts on unbelief. And because of her unbelief the world is plunged into sin. Sin that oozes into the cracks of who we are and distorts the core of who we are as image bearers. Unbelief destroys.

I feel like I must make the distinction between questioning and unbelief. To question is to pose a thought we don’t have an answer for and I believe questioning things is totally healthy. Look at Job, David, Isaiah, and other prophets. They question God on many things. God knows that we are finite in our being. And as finite beings why wouldn’t we have questions for an infinite God? After all, we are humans not puppets.

However when we allow the questions to give way to doubts that make us not believe in God being who He says and Him doing what He says He will do, we have let the crippling sin of unbelief take root in our hearts and it will choke us to death. Unbelief makes us bitter and cynical. So if you find yourself in a season of unbelief, critical thoughts and words, anger, bitterness, and/or cynicism, I encourage you, dear sister, to ask yourself what lies am I believing? Where in my life do I have an unbelieving heart? Do I need to ask Jesus to forgive me for choosing to believe, live out of, and act on lies instead of truth?

Now, here is where I would shut down with crippling guilt. So if you are feeling dumped on and guilty, this next word is for you. There is a massive difference between conviction and condemnation. Conviction causes us to see how much God loves us and desires for us to be fully His. It helps us call sin for sin. Sin left not dealt with will destroy us. Sin takes what God intended for us to be and twists and bends and distorts until what was meant to be holy is unholy. And what is unholy cannot be with God. So He provides conviction when we sin to get us back on track to spur us on to hope that He is who He says He is and will finish the good works He has made in us before the foundation of the world. Conviction leads to seeing God for who He is and seeing us for who we are and if needed asking God to forgive us and believe His Truth which then gives us hope to act to live out our story in God’s story.

Condemnation is not from God. Condemnation makes us look at our sin and feel hated. Condemnation makes us feel unlovely. It makes us feel beyond the reach of love. It makes us feel shame that makes us want to hide just like Adam and Eve wanted to hide after they sinned in the garden. It talks down to us and tells us there is no hope so why bother. If you feel any of these things that is the voice of Satan the accuser. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

So if you are feeling like you are too much and not enough, know that you are not alone. The only way we can begin to change is to let Christ change us from the inside out. To let Him expose areas of unbelief in our lives. Will you let Him? Will you let Him then love on you? Really love on you. You don’t have to bring anything or be anything or do anything for Him to love you. Just be in Him and let His truth that you are beautiful and intricately made and so loved wash over you today. Live out of his abundant love today. And when you begin to hear the whispers of the accuser I dare you to boldly shut him down. Don’t engage. Instead speak truth to yourself and leave no room for doubt. I know I struggle with this deeply and as we move forward into discussing more about what it means to be submissive, a feminist, and a minister of the gospel to a dying world all from a biblical perspective we must start here. At the beginning where sin entered the world so we can be aware of the pitfalls as we seek to redemptively engage in difficult conversations. That a spirit of nasty criticism and anger and unkind words come from unbelief and sin and if we want to dialogue in love it’s going to take believing in a big and sovereign and good and just and loving God that will stop at nothing to make right the wrongs and heal our wounds from sin and His divine purpose for women in His kingdom alongside His men co-warrioring to spread His light and love throughout the world. I’m ready! Are you?