In Genesis 1:26 we’re told that we are “made in the image and likeness of God”; but what does that mean? It means we have a spirit and a soul, in addition to a physical body, and we are imbued with God’s attributes of creativity, morality, intelligence, beauty, love and grace. God blessed us with so many gifts because he wants us to live full, rich lives, as Jesus promised in John 10 “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
So why don’t we all live the abundant life? Unfortunately through sin and abuse we become broken and shattered, like a mirror smashed on the ground. Instead of being a reflection of God, we are wounded, with jagged edges, reflecting bitterness and anger. We still faintly bear the distorted image of God, but we are unable to be restored by our own efforts. We know we are broken, so we read self-help books, and go to counseling, or we try to escape our pain with alcohol, the internet, or by work or exercise. But nothing can remove the gaping, broken emptiness.
But God promises in 1st Peter 5 that “the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ (Jesus) will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little.” So how will he accomplish this?
Thirty years ago in Holland one of Rembrandt’s masterpieces was viciously ripped open by a disturbed visitor to the Dutch Museum. The Museum gathered experts, art historians and scientists to analyze the damage and try to seek out some way to restore the damaged painting. Painstakingly they devised a way to repair it by lifting the face of the painting from the original canvas and placing it on a more sturdy one. The completed process was so successful that it looked perfect to future visitors.
Through trauma and through our own sinful actions, we rip apart the masterpiece that God created, just as surely as the deranged man who damaged Michelangelo’s Pieta; with one stroke of a hammer he broke off the arm of the Blessed Mother, and shattered part of her face.
St. Athanasius pondered our shattered image, and explored the different ways that God could restore us. Would he give up on the human race and throw away the broken art, and start over? St. Athanasius realized “The artist does not throw away the panel,” he wrote, “The subject of the portrait must come and sit for it again, and then the likeness is re-drawn on the same material.” (Athanasius, On the Incarnation)
“Jesus Christ was born to restore God’s image in us! On the canvas of human flesh and blood, God has allowed himself to be re-drawn in Jesus Christ, to restore his image in humanity, and to show us what it means to be fully human again! Jesus himself became the canvas, in human flesh and blood! On and in and through Jesus God drew the picture of himself. A perfect and flawless portrait, as the author of Hebrews declares: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being…” (Hebrews 1:3). No guesswork, no stains of sin to remove, no places left blank for others to fill in later, no improvising from the margins.” (From article “How Can We Restore God’s Image in Us?” link below)
Only in Jesus Christ can we become whole in body, mind and spirit, and live the joyful life that God planned from the beginning of time. To achieve this restoration, spend time learning about Christ, meditate on his passion and death, his miracles; come to know him in the deep, interior recesses of your heart. The more time you devote, the more you will see his glory. “All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (1st Corin. 3:18)
How does God restore us? He promises in Isaiah:
The desert and parched land will exult, they will bloom with abundant flowers and rejoice with joyful song. The desert of shame and unforgiveness will turn into streams bursting with love and joy; the burning sands of loneliness and despair will be turned into pools of refreshing warmth and tenderness. The thirsty ground yearning for love, will spring into wells overflowing with mercy and compassion. The place where the jackals of darkness and depression roam, will be turned into a rich marsh, where hope and happiness flourish. We will be met with goodness and gladness, and grief and sorrow will flee. A highway will be readied for those striving for holiness, where we will be safe and secure, free from harm, crowned with his glory.
(From Isaiah 35)