Finding God’s Image Even in the Dark, Messy Places

“The supreme religious challenge is to see God’s image in one who is not in our image.” – Jonathan Sacks

I found this quote in my inbox the other day and like an itch from a mosquito bite that disrupts  one’s sleep, it continues to follow me.

How do I define the image of God? Am I looking for something I can recognize about God from what I have experienced or from what God is wiling to experience?

The very best of me comes from the image of God. But what about the worst of me, is it separated out away from the image of God?

Does God view me as segregated into good and bad? 

No, God doesn’t.

To clarify – if I view God as outside of the very worst of who I am, I will continue to seek to improve myself for God vs. finding God in all things – even in the deep, ugly, dark wounds. Yes, I do mean that God’s presence is in the dark stuff, even where I least expect to find it.

What I believe and experience about the image of God in me (most days) is that

  • I am loving…
  • I am compassionate…
  • I am grateful…
  • I am sincere…
  • I am non-judgmental,


Can I also see the image of God there with me in the ways that I am:

  • seeking approval and wanting to be loved…
  • swearing at the dumb jerk in the fast car who has cut me off in traffic…
  • judging another person…
  • nursing my pride when wounded by another…

If God’s image is only for the places of perfection, of what has been refined, then I make God a god that is absent the trenches of change, the real dirt of life. But when I look at Jesus’ life, Jesus shows me a different way:

  • Jesus ate with people – whom others saw as sinners. 
  • Jesus received gifts from people – whom others saw as prostitutes.
  • Jesus drank with people – whom others saw as betrayers.
  • Jesus carried sins for people – whom others saw as murderers.


The dark, ugly and super messy places.

Jesus saw, engaged, met and loved people where they were in order to bring the very best of God into some really dark and messy places.

I once heard Dallas Willard say, “God did not send Jesus to earth to show us who God was, but to show us who we are capable of being.”

If this is true, then it is during those moments of life when I stop long enough to see people as living, breathing image bearers of God that I will also see the presence of God in motion – in process – moving in and through another person. And then maybe, just maybe, I can treasure the image of God even in the dark and ugly things where absence seems bigger than presence.

I believe that to truly see God’s image in one another we will have to risk seeing all of who we are – not just the very best of who we are – but all of our image, both light and dark.

If God isn’t afraid of the dark, why am I?

~ becky

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