It takes a lot to get me out of the house in winter. I’m trying to renegotiate the basic human need for food so I can eliminate grocery store trips, but so far that hasn’t succeeded. I don’t like cold. Or snow… You know, Amazon and PeaPod deliver…
Still, almost every winter our family ventures down to Starved Rock State Park, hiking a couple miles in to see the waterfalls. Usually, we manage to choose one of the coldest Saturdays of the winter. The exquisite stillness of a stream, frozen mid-cascade toward its icy pool, makes every step of the walk worth its peaceful conclusion.
The other sight we travel there for is the bald eagles. Watching a half dozen of them soaring over the Illinois River, dipping, diving, and rocketing back up, makes cold seem less relevant, somehow, like I should be cured of caring about lesser things.
I’ve been preaching for the last month on our identity in Christ. If we know who we are and what we are born for, how would it change the way we live out his kingdom here?
I started to imagine, while thinking about both these things: What if an eagle didn’t know it was an eagle? What if it thought it was a mole? What if it spent its days digging through the ground, eating beetle grubs, wondering all the time why it was so incredibly ineffective at this digging thing? Why it hated the feel of dirt and dust on its feathers? And why, oh why, were grubs so disgusting and unfilling?
The eagle would feel like it was a failure. Like it had one job and it not only was no good at it, it didn’t even want to be.
That sounds like a lot of us.
What if one of the reasons we have such a difficult time understanding and living out our true identity in God is that we do not believe we are eagles? We spend our time digging away at pointless things, crying out to God, Why? Why do I feel like I can’t ever get better at this? Why is this so unfulfilling? Why am I not making any headway at all?
And God looks at us and says—Because you’re not a mole, you idiot. You were never meant to paw at the dirt. I made you to soar.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
–Ephesians 2.10, NLT
Eagles are some of God’s most incredible creations. But us? We are masterpieces. Right up there with the Mona Lisa and the Pieta. God’s stunning creations. You should be hanging in a museum and having people gawk at you.
OK, maybe not. That wouldn’t even be very much fun, I’m guessing.
Michael Card calls us divine poetry and he is correct in parsing the original word here, poiema. Works created by God. Balanced, beautiful, rhythmic, and perfectly tuned to the creator of the meter. It’s used only one other time in the New Testament (Romans 1:20), where it talks about creation. We know what God said about creation, right? That it was good. Nothing in that six days of work was labeled anything less than good. In fact, the final creation, humankind, was determined to be very good. It seems God has two masterpieces he uses to display his glory. Creation. (Awesome.) And us. (Scary.)
But what if I don’t feel like a masterpiece? The good news is it doesn’t matter how we feel. God called us one. His word is the rule. If he said it, it’s fact. If he has declared it to be so, my feelings don’t change it one way or another. That’s excellent news for someone whose feelings of worth vary as much as the tide level in the Bay of Fundy.
Why does my life seem unfulfilling? Why am I making no headway at all? Why does everyone else seem purpose-driven and I feel like a hamster on a wheel? (I know, I broke the mole metaphor. But hey, it’s still a rodent.)
Think about it. If I don’t have any idea who I am as God’s image, how do I have any hope of recognizing his glory in others? If the “good things” he planned for us include (as we must assume they do) loving our neighbor as ourself (Mark 12:28-31), how can we do that with any rate of success if we don’t recognize God’s masterpiece in our neighbor?
If I sell myself short in a hundred tiny ways every day, I’m highly likely to do the same to others.
No, I’m not going to offer the trite statement that I have to love myself before I can ever love others. If God says to love, He can help me love whether or not I want to or feel equipped. It’s pop-psych babble to make self-love the centerpiece of Christ’s clear statement about others. What I am saying is that if I want to do it well, it takes a good grasp on what God says his image in humans is.
It requires recognizing the masterpiece in every human soul, and that includes my own.
The truth is, every time we choose to be less than an eagle, we disrespect the image he gave us. We choose to be a cheap postcard reprint of a Thomas Kinkade when we could be a Monet.
If I want to be an anthology-worthy poiema and not greeting card schlock, I have to listen to the rhythm and rhyme of my Creator until it’s entwined with my own heartbeat.
“For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it.”
In other words, you must soar.