Read: Genesis 1:26–31
As a teenager, I went through years of chaotic identity crisis. Growing up, my family never stayed in the same place for more than a couple years at a time. Everywhere I went I felt like an outcast. A combination of fluid friendships and my own natural introvertedness made for a very isolated life, up until my early adult years. When I finally began making consistent, healthy friendships, something very unexpected happened. I began to feel whole. It felt like my personality had been a liquid or a gelatin that had finally solidified into something solid and stable. I found the closer I got to knowing people, the more meaningful life became and the more I knew myself. Human life was not meant to be spent in self-absorbed isolation. It was designed to be experienced in community, and it’s there that we thrive and find wholeness.
In today’s passage, we’re told that we were made in the image of God. Men and women are somehow both equally made in the image of God, though showing different characteristics. Verse 26 contains a beautiful and paradoxical turn of phrase where it says that God made man (singular) in “Our image, after Our likeness” (plural). Obviously talking about the Trinity is a challenge, but one helpful illustration I’ve heard comes from a Puritan phrase which goes, “God is in himself a sweet society of love”.
Humans, on the other hand, are not self-sufficient. We see from the very beginning that humans were meant to be reliant, both on God and other humans. Later, in Genesis 2:18 God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone”. This is the first thing in creation to not be described as good! There is something about human beings that requires other people to love.
Although human beings are clearly not a one-for-one metaphor for God, part of being made in His image and sharing His nature is loving things that are not ourselves. We were made to love one another, the same way God looks down on humans and loves us. Without a doubt, you can imagine a loving person in your life who draws people into their orbit because of their self-sacrificial and compassionate character. God does the same with us, drawing us up into His orbit to share in His love and life, which John 17:1–26 tells us is God’s greatest desire for His children; that we would be one with Him as Jesus and the Father are one.
I spent most of my life outside of life-giving friendships, mostly because I was too scared to admit that I needed a loving community to feel whole. There was a bittersweet consolation in feeling like I could do life on my own. While isolating myself felt empowering for a moment, in the long-run it led to years of depression and dissolution. Isolation isn’t just emotionally unhealthy, it goes against our programing as relational creatures made in the image of a triune God!
Ask yourself today, ‘do I tend to keep people at arm’s reach because I was hurt before?’ It’s unhealthy—and as we’ve discussed here, inhuman—to isolate yourself and always guard your heart from intimate, godly relationships. The risk of a broken heart always comes with entrusting your love to anything, but it is essential to give trust in order to share love. The body of believers known as the Church is where God moves among His people. Plant yourself there and find people to share your love and compassion with, and you’ll be surprised how much you will grow with God.