God’s image in your neighborhood

Jun 15, 2016 by

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Some people see God best in nature. They love walking in parks and botanical gardens for hours. The natural world breathes life into their spirit. It’s where they prefer to be.

I’ve never been one of those people.

It used to sort of niggle at me that I wasn’t more of a nature lover. As if it were some sort of flaw that I’d rather hang out with friends and drink coffee or read a book than take a walk in the woods outside my door. If God is best seen in nature, surely a person should want to be there as much as possible, right? Or at least live in the country. Surely.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy seeing God in nature. I do. Very much. Quiet hiking trails along trickling waterfalls. The varied greens of every new springtime. The grandeur of the Continental Divide’s rocky ranges unfolding for miles. The lulling lap of endless waves breaking on white sands. Sunrises. Sunsets. Rainbows. The peace of the Valley’s blue mountains that fulfill “the promise in the Book.” Fireflies flitting through quiet summer twilight. Flowers blooming welcome beside the doorstep.

These marvels silently shout God’s glory. Tangible proofs “Thy nature and thy name is love.” They quieten the heart and speak “Peace, be still” to body and soul.

Grand and glorious revelations of his presence, without a doubt.

But where I most love seeing God is in his image-bearers.

Beings he first molded from dust with gentle hands and breathed into their nostrils the breath of life. Then placed in a special garden: a paradise of love and beauty for them to live and move and have their being. To bear his image and share in his work. “And, behold, it was very good.”

Perhaps that’s why I enjoy living in an apartment complex so much. The people. It thrills my heart in a deep place to live amid a constant flux of humanity. I just love seeing them and connecting and interacting. All of us doing life in our little neighborhood.

I’m not sure why this brings me such joy. It just does.

People of all colors, ages and walks of life. Coming, going, working, visiting. Each one breathing life born from that first breath and bearing God’s image in their special, unique way. A constant live-stream visual of God’s love for diversity. Divine creativity clad in human cloth.

All busy going about the business of living. Doing life’s daily mundanities. The bits and pieces of living that hold the elixir of life. For it’s in the little day-to-day duties where we spend most of our lives. And it’s in those little bits and pieces of living and loving and being that life’s deepest beauty and meaning are found. In the fleeting dust of everyday ordinary.

In truth, it’s not that I ever consciously think about people bearing God’s image. It doesn’t even enter my mind when I’m with them. But there are some things the heart just knows without our consciously thinking about them. These truths influence our minds and we respond intuitively.

The sacredness of life embodied in humans is one of those truths. We instinctively value it above all other things.

But we humans are so — well — so human, that we often overlook God’s beauty in this life force in people. The God-glimpses in ordinary humans going about everyday living.

This morning I opened my curtains and looked out on the world. The sun was up. Birds were singing at the top of their lungs. “Morning has broken like the first morning … Born of the one light Eden saw play.” Fresh cool air held a hint of coming heat. Filled parking spots told which day of the week it was. Or, rather, wasn’t.

It was a glorious day in the neighborhood.

Across the complex a dad was coming down the sidewalk flanked by two young children. The box in his hands looked like those from the family-run donut shop up the street. As the little group turned into the walkway leading to their apartment, the early sun cast their short shadows bobbing along beside them.

My eyes feasted on the beauty of it: a loving dad and his eager kids bringing donuts home for a Saturday morning treat. Perhaps to a waiting mom, savoring a few sweet moments of alone time.

The dad unlocked the door and stood back to let the little people enter ahead of him. Then he followed them in, carrying the box of goodness to be enjoyed in sweet relaxed togetherness. A little Sabbath.

What a beautiful image of our heavenly Father.

A Dad who walks before us, beside us, behind us. Who sometimes steps back and lets us go ahead while he brings up the rearguard. Providing guidance, protection, comfort, goodness. Sweetness in life’s little places. True Sabbath. Daily.

“God’s re-creation of the New Day.”

In his image-bearers. In your neighborhood.

Ava Shank grew up in a Mennonite community in the Shenandoah Valley. She currently lives in Zanesville, Ohio, where she moved temporarily for a writing project. She blogs at Fresh Brewed Thoughts, where this post first appeared.

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