If you’re a parent, find a place where you can observe your nearest child without being noticed. Spend a few minutes just watching. Whether playing outside, face streaked with dirt and sweat, or inside watching TV, eyes riveted to the rapidly changing images, doing the dishes or listening to music, playing with a ratty toy on the floor or doing homework. It doesn’t matter. Just look.
And, as you look, think to yourself,
“This is my child, made in the image of God, called for a purpose.”
When you’re done, think it again. And again. Let it really sink in. Because, as a parent, nothing is easier to forget.
Math homework. I hate math homework. Sitting at the kitchen table with the books out, pencils sharpened, and calculator close to hand, I just know that it’s going to be another hair-pulling, teeth-clenching, chair-squirming experience. And that’s only if things go well.
The challenge is in the chair next to me. Because, of course, the homework isn’t mine. It’s hers. And she really doesn’t feel like doing it.
But we stay focused. Or, more correctly, I stay focused and keep her on task. I want her to get this done. In the grand scheme of things, I want her to do well in school so she can go off to college and eventually land a good job. More immediately, I still have an outside shot of getting her in bed early enough to enjoy a little time with my wife. So we buckle down and get it done. Mission accomplished.
Or was it mission failed?
At times like this, it’s easy to forget what being a parent is all about. We may have gotten the homework done, but along the way, I’ve lost sight of what it really means to be a parent. My fundamental purpose isn’t to help my daughter finish her homework. It’s not even to make sure she gets good grades so she can go to a good college, get a good job, and live a good life. I have a higher calling. So does she.
Raising an Image of God
Every child has a vocation. That’s easy to forget in the chaotic swirl of life: chores, soccer games, birthday parties, and so on. Parents have a lot to keep track of. But in the midst of the chaos, we have to remember that our children have a great purpose: image of God. God created them to be part of his people, called to manifest his glory on earth. It doesn’t matter if they’re two, twelve, or twenty, they’re made in God’s image. His little idols.
And that means I have a more important calling as a parent than just getting the homework done. I’ve been given the amazing task of raising one of God’s image bearers, helping her understand her vocation, modeling for her what it looks like to image God in the world (as best I can), connecting her to the rest of God’s people so she image God in community as he always intended. I could go on. Raising an image bearer is a pretty awesome thing.
Images of God at the Kitchen Table
Tonight, we’ll face the math homework again. And it would be easy to think that focusing on the image of God means my daughter and I should skip it and just go read the Bible for a while. But that would be a mistake. Not reading the Bible, but thinking that imaging God has nothing to do with math homework. We don’t just image God in so-called “religious” activities like going to church and reading the Bible. God calls us to be his image bearers in the mundane, the everyday, the normal, and yes, the math homework. Sitting there at the kitchen table, scratching away at some complex equation, my daughter is being an image of God. I just need to remember that, help her understand it, and show her why it matters.
So, sitting at the table with my daughter tonight, I hope I’ll have a renewed vision of what we’re doing. I’ll look at her and think,
“This is my daughter, made by God for his purposes. Image bearer.”
And we’ll dive into the homework. From the outside, it may not look any different than last night. Same table, same pencils, different worksheets. But for me, everything is different. We’re not just doing math. We’re imaging God. Together.
[We've been exploring what it means to be made in the image of God. In the first half of our series, we focused on what "image of God" means in the Bible. Now we're turning our attention to whether the image of God matters in the everyday world. The short answer is yes. The long answer will take a little more time. Follow along.]