“Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you — and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me.” – Philippians 2: 12-18
I’ve been known to ask in Bible study classes, “How do you reflect God in the world?” The question is often met with uncomfortable silence. I suspect because many of us are taught that speaking positively about ourselves is considered bragging. I promise you that recognizing God’s image within you is not bragging. Rather, it is a sign of spiritual maturity. Being able to see how you are designed by God helps you to authentically live into you.
Each of us were created in God’s very own image. God’s image is goodness, beauty and love. Therefore, you have God’s good, beautiful, loving DNA woven throughout you. This is what God designed to be shown in the world through you.
The Apostle Paul gets this. As he sits in a jail cell, completely dependent on the help of others, he writes a letter of encouragement to the church he founded at Philippi. This letter to the Philippians is often referred to as the “joy” letter. It is clear through his writing that this church was special to Paul. I encourage you to read the letter in its entirety.
In the excerpt above, Paul encourages the community not to get caught in the weeds of life. Instead of complaining or fighting against their created nature, they are to reflect God in the world. In the words of Paul, they will “shine like stars in the world.” None of their work will be in vain. All of their efforts will be worth it. In other words, as you invest in discovering God’s image within you, you will shine like a star. The work will be worth it, and we will all rejoice in it together!
So, I ask, “How do you reflect God in the world?” Take some time and ponder the attributes of God. How do you experience God? What do you know to be true of God’s nature from the scriptural stories? How did Jesus reflect God? Make a list if that helps.
After you’ve pondered God, think about yourself. Where do you see yourself aligning with God’s attributes? Are you compassionate, generous, kind, or justice oriented? Do you speak truth and love? Are you gentle, strong, inclusive, and accepting? Perhaps you have the ability to listen with sincerity. Maybe you really see people.
This may be a difficult exercise for you. I get that. You are encouraged to sit with the discomfort. Pray that God opens your heart and your eyes to see yourself as God’s reflection. When you are ready, pull out paper and a pen and write a letter to yourself. Write it as if God were speaking to you, telling you exactly what was in mind when you were created.
Hang on to your letter. When you are feeling discouraged or like the world is beating you up, pull out your letter to remind yourself of the God attributes woven in you.
May each of us look up and see God shining all around. May the shimmer and shine of God’s brightness enliven and lighten us. May it be especially so on these long, gray days of winter.
Rev. Jennifer Applegate is pastor at the William Street United Methodist Church in Delaware.