John Calvin used a broken mirror as a primary metaphor for the state of the Imago Dei after the fall. When
you look at a broken or shattered mirror the image is barely recognizable. Because Total Depravity was foundational to Calvinist systematics, this image became a primary image of the church of my youth.
Later when I was preaching, I used a bottle of water and then a tiny bit of sewage which I added to it and swirled around. I Explained that this is what even a small amount of sin did to us. I argued that Total Depravity didn’t mean that we are as bad as we can be. It meant that we were bad in every way that we can be.
Over the past two years, that image shifted again. Now I see the Imago Dei to be like a 1000 carat diamond, that is huge and radiant and catches the light wherever there is any light to be caught; and it is at the very
center of my being. It is my essence. It is who God made me to be…
“And then the Serpent said to Eve, you will not surely die, but you will be like God…” and she ate wanting to be more beautiful than she already was… “And she gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate…” though he wasn’t deceived, but undoubtedly was terrified of being alone again.
And we learned rather quickly how to dive into excrement so that the diamond was covered, and the light dimmed… And Cain saw how God received his brother’s offering and he was filled with jealousy because his was not received so well and so he murdered his brother, was marked by God, and caked more excrement onto the Imago Dei. And then Lamach, totally pissed at God for his curse of his father, Cain, shook his fists at the heavens, vowed his revenge and plastered still more excrement onto the diamond which didn’t reflect much of anything anymore. It was still very much there; but now, instead of gloriously reflecting light it resembled a pile of cow dung in a field asking to be scooped and thrown onto the fire as fuel…
All of them were me. Their story was mine. Mine was theirs. Just like them, I couldn’t see the diamond. All I could see was excrement. I forgot what lay beneath, and I was embarrassed because I could smell myself and knew that I was nothing more than a pile of dung that no one would ever love…
And so I started to gussy myself up, to make myself look pretty. Much like a Matryoshka,
I covered the
crap, hiding it inside a small hollow, wooden doll with a painted on smile. It wasn’t much, but it covered my shame. I realized how well that worked and so I found another doll to nestle the first one in and hid the crap even further from discovery.
Each new doll was chosen to help me feel better — superior. Each new improvement I found in the pages of the latest self-help book, or in the words of a sermon helped me cover what I feared was the real me. It helped me cover what I wanted to forget and did not want to acknowledge or accept…
Mostly it worked, I lost sight of all that was in me except when I had the runs and crap leaked out and I was really embarrassed again, running to see a therapist or hiding in my latest addiction to ease my shame. Shame became the only real indicator that I was real at all.
This life left me exceptionally lonely, isolated and continually afraid of discovery. I knew if you knew about the crap, you’d never love me. I’d hide, and know that though you loved my shell, you didn’t really love me. My gosh, poets wrote and musicians sang
of this sad reality.
If I said what’s on my mind,
you’d turn and walk away,
disappearing way back in your dreams.
its so hard to be unkind,
so easy just to say,
that everything is just the way it seems….
You’d look up at me,
and somewhere in your mind you’d see,
a man, I’ll never be…
That was me. I believed a lie. The lie was my reality.
If only I had remembered there was a glorious and priceless diamond inside…