Image and Desires
For various reasons, my thoughts recently have been much taken up with two things: image and desires. In many ways they are connected. Our desires are often fed by the image we feel we should have and our image of ourselves is often shaped by the desires we feel should be fulfilled.
We live in a day when image is often the same as status. We have people looked up to, listened to, emulated even, just for being famous. Or for having a certain image. And in an era when commercialism is king, when we are all consumers, the advertisers pummel us with the image of the perfect look, the perfect dream home, the perfect car, all feeding a sense of what our perfect image should be. And these stimulate desires in us. Desires for things that will, we are promised, fulfill all those inner needs for status, image, completeness and so on.
But the reality always fails. We can never live up to the image we feel we ought to have. And even if we do, it makes no more contented than it did before. Our inner lives remain thirsty for a fulfillment we have yet to find. That gold at the end of the rainbow always remains at the end of a very distant rainbow.
And that is because our image of ourselves, and what we should be like, has been distorted by what the Bible calls sin. And our God given desires for happiness and fulfillment have been corrupted. We were made in the image of God but sin entered into us and we no longer conform to that image.
One of the earlier Christians said that sin is disordered self-love, or love curved in on itself. We were made to perfectly love God (all the time) and love others (perfectly and all the time and regardless of who they are) but instead we love ourselves and we resent others for either crossing our self-centred paths or for seemingly getting the things we feel we should have had instead.
Another definition of sin has been that of soul sickness. But this is not, like many sicknesses, something we are unfortunate in catching. This is something we have brought upon ourselves. It is the result of our rejection of God’s good order for our lives and of God himself. And the result is this ever-pressing search for meaning and fulfillment that never gets satisfied because we are looking in the wrong place.
But it is worse than that, because the Bible says that sin, this failure of love to God and others, is something that God must punish and will punish. It is serious treason against the ruler of the universe. But this ruler is kind and compassionate and loving. He offers a way out. Sin is punished in Jesus’ death for those who acknowledge they have been rebels and who, having sought and obtained forgiveness, determine to follow Jesus.
When we turn back to God in this way, the image of God begins to be restored in us. God adopts us into his family and gives us a new identity as children of God. Our image is now his image. We no longer need to chase after approval from others, or seek our image in the latest fashion trends. Our image, our worth, is infinitely more than that. Our image is nothing less than the ones who are loved by God. God, the Bible tells us, sings over us. He delights in us as we delight in him. Now our desires for happiness find their true home in him. That is something worth pursuing and it puts all those man-made images in the shade.