Violation of Imago Dei

a poetic musing on broken mirrors and divine beauty

when i was sixteen
my eyes discovered
a deep mystery;

how we see
b e a u t y
as only for
t a k i n g

surely beauty is something
for possessing, obtaining

surely beauty is a declaration;

s o m e t h i n g
to be announced
to be acknowledged

a claiming of one’s identity

but what if beauty
isn’t about
seeing or taking?

when i was sixteen
i witnessed a window into a world
that i wish didn’t exist;

a window into a reality
that didn’t seem real to me

but my wish
to wish away
another’s reality
is foolish, selfish

why are we so conditioned?

to look to the world, to the mirror
and to seek to see perfection

as though
perfection is beauty

as though
to be flawless
is to be favoured

as though
veneers hold more weight and value

when really
veneers are transparent shields
that hide our true, imperfect cores

when really
veneers are costumes of vulnerability
and perfection is the only act
we are shown how to perform
on the stage of our lives

behind the stage, the scenes, the life, the act,
the costume, the performance, the veneer,
is that true, imperfect core; a container for beauty

in brokenness is beauty

for that imperfect core
boasts crevices and cracks

and there is an invitation
to receive beauty
to contain beauty

there is a healing
in this kind of filling
the miraculous supply
beyond the eyes
the unseen speaking
softer and surer
than the seen

for to be
a container of beauty
is to be a
container of glory

there is an invitation

not to take beauty
or obtain beauty
as though beauty
can be applied
to the veneer, the vessel

there is an invitation

for beauty
to be received
to be contained

for beauty
not to be applied
but to be supplied

why are we so conditioned?
to condemn when we do not see perfection
to discredit, dismiss, devalue our image

we deem our beauty to be exterior, searchable in mirrors
rather than found in those soul-layers
where beauty shines like a lamp, full of light and life
a glory so radiant it cannot be our own
a glow that only the Spirit knows how to show

why are we so conditioned?
to look to the world, to the mirror
unwilling to see, to admit
the sharp edges of humanity
that shatter those picture perfect mirrors
we are told our lives will be

why are we so conditioned?
to listen to lies
to ignore truth

when i was sixteen
i was sold this life, this perfect mirror,
in movies and magazines and tv;

but now i see
how we are sold this lie
in the blurring of lines
between perception and reality;

the screen our sheen

the mirror in which
we are told to see
what our lives
are supposed to be

picture-perfect realities

“When you become vulnerable, any ideal or perfect image of yourself falls away… Many people are addicted to perfection, and in their pursuit of the ideal, they have no patience with vulnerability… The beauty of the ideal awakens a passion and urgency that brings out the best in the person and calls forth the dream of excellence.

The beauty of the true ideal is its hospitality towards woundedness, weakness, failure and fall-back. Yet so many people are infected with the virus of perfection. They cannot rest; they allow themselves no ease until they come close to the cleansed domain of perfection. This false notion of perfection does damage and puts their lives under great strain. It is a wonderful day in a life when one is finally able to stand before the long, deep mirror of one’s own reflection and view oneself with appreciation, acceptance, and forgiveness. On that day one breaks through the falsity of images and expectations which have blinded one’s spirit. One can only learn to see who one is when one learns to view oneself with the most intimate and forgiving compassion.” 

– John O’Donohue in Divine Beauty: The Invisible Embrace

“I’d always thought that natural beauty, like a rose of a sunset, was edifying. Surely it taught us something about goodness, about the point of being alive, to lose ourselves in irrational, aesthetic pleasure.”

– Diana Reid in Love & Virtue

when i was sixteen
i witnessed a window into a world
that i wish didn’t exist;

there were women
sitting in front of mirrors
readying themselves

i had no idea
they were not selling beauty
but selling their bodies

i was ignorant
and horrified
when i discovered
this was a brothel

the red light
should have been telling

i had heard of the
“red light district” in cambodia

it was not a tourist destination
but a home of sexual exploitation

the red light
sold beauty as flammable
only to be consumed
in the heat of a moment
the burning passion of the eyes
not a fire inside

when i was sixteen
i witnessed a window into this world
i wondered why all the women were getting ready
like they were in a showgirl movie
laced up and bathed in rosy light

someone else on the bus
told me we were travelling
into the red light district of siem reap

visiting a foreign country for the first time
is already eye-opening
but this was another kind of confronting

to this day
over ten years later
i have never been able
to erase that imagery
from my mind

why did the women
willingly walk like lambs
into a slaughter house?

why did the wolves
willingly go to the slaughter house
knowing full well these lambs
were vulnerable and
their wool was stained?

i want to speak up
against this injustice

this is a violation

this Latin concept
stands for “Image of God”

this Christian doctrine
stems from genesis 1:27:

‘so God created man
in his own image,
in the image of God
he created him;
male and female
he created them’

the premise of this theology
is that we are made in God’s image

there is symbolism
in the relationship
between humanity and God

this is a metaphysical expression

we are like mirrors of the divine,
the holy God of the stars, the seas, the earth

man is not just made of dust [gen.2:7]
woman is not just broken bone [gen.23]
we are formed by the breath of God

mirrors of life, of light, of glory, of beauty

to violate IMAGO DEI
is to distort and discredit this image
to treat ourselves as though our mirror, our worth
is something less-than;
“not good enough”, “not perfect enough”, “not flawless enough”
it is to look at the mirror of this world
and reflect an image other than that of our Maker
it is to look at the mirror of the world
and to filter the image we project to the world

when i was sixteen
i witnessed a window into a world
that i wish didn’t exist;

i wish we didn’t see our beauty or body
as something we need to sell
in order to have value and worth

women particularly;
i want to see living out IMAGO DEI
seeing ourselves as image-bearer
not seeking to conform
to an image of the world

there are so many images
we are exposed to on social media

there are entire industries
that solely exist
to sell us an image of ourselves

as though makeup and fashion
allow our images
to attract attention
when in reality
they detract attention
from our true image
our true beauty
our true glory
as mirrors of our Maker


a couple years ago
righteous anger rose in me
as i remembered that window

it was not an opening to the world
but an opening to hell

a living hell
where women sold their bodies
as though they were not
windows themselves:

beloved beautiful creations

did they know
their worth?
their value?

did they choose this
or was it chosen for them?

the reason my anger resurfaced
was when i was on a date
walking through my very own city
when i noticed the same warning signs:
the rosy light, the secret windows
b r o t h e l

what was worse was he knew it was there
and he didn’t see the problem
in fact, by his words and actions
i could only assume he was defending
the brothel, the needs of men
on account of his own
experience and value exchange
through those very doors of hell

a Christian man ?!?!!?!?!?!?!
it angered me, destroyed me, disheartened me
how ?!?!!?!?!?!?!

i share all this now
many years later
not to condemn or disturb

i do not point fingers
at the men who frequent brothels
or the women found in brothels

i want to point a finger at myself;

the me that also fails
to see my body, my beauty

i want to point a finger at myself;

to press into my true, imperfect core
the inner beauty, the true image
the glory container inside me

and i invite you to do the same

unfortunately, we live in a world
where red lights don’t mean stop signs or net loss
for some reg lights are survival, start signs, profits

for some, red lights are a choice
for others, it is not a choice

i want to speak for those who don’t have a choice or a voice;
those stuck in sexual trafficking
those stuck in social media picture-perfect marketing
those stuck in captivity to a false image of beauty and identity

i want to speak
to those and for those
who don’t see
their true value and worth
in the eyes of God
who don’t see
their true value and worth
as divine image bearers

i want to speak
for those being sexual-trafficked

they need us

they need us to stand up, to speak up, to do something
they need our freedom of choice
our choice to be able to give, to sow into ministries
that will provide them an alternative way of life
a way of hope and love and true freedom, not false freedom

if you want to stand and sow,
one organisation in this fight to end sex trafficking
is A21, founded by Christine Caine

another disclaimer:
it is not just women
who are caught in this industry
but children, men

they need us

“Your own spiritual beauty may be very much measured by what you can see in other people”

Charles Spurgeon

“What He doesn’t plan on is us putting a fake version of ourselves out there to take the hit. God is the master artist and made an original version of us, a priceless one that cost everything to create. A version that can’t and won’t be created again. He asks us to hang that version of ourselves for everyone to see. Despite out inherent beauty, each of us is tempted to hide the original so we won’t get damaged. I understand why… the fake version of us, it’s not worthless. It’s just worth less because it’s only a copy of the real us, a version we don’t care about as much. When we hang the fake version out there, it’s not the version God created”

– Bob Goff in Love Does

“Beauty interrupts us, it awakens us, it undoes us, it cuts us open, and restarts our hearts. Beauty is God’s evidence of something far more wonderful coming, a world beyond the one we can imagine, even in the most spectacular moments here.”

“There is such intention. Such craftsmanship. Such incredible functionality. Such beauty. Such proof.”

“Beauty is evidence of something beyond ourselves. Beauty is evidence of a world yet to come. Beauty is evidence of a Creator who is loving and profoundly delightful. Beauty floods in and interrupts when, instead of cynicism, we choose trust.”

– Jennie Allen in Get Out of Your Head

“The Bible regularly describes the Son of God as God’s “image” or “representation” (Col. 1:15; 2 Cor. 4:4-6). The Son is the radiance of the Father’s glory and the exact image of his nature (Her. 1:3). The eternal Son of God is often connected to God’s wisdom (1 Cor. 1:30; Prov. 8:30) and to his Word or self-expression (John 1:1). Jesus says that if you’ve seen him, you’ve seen the Father (John 14:7-11), as if he were simply an image, a replication of his Father’s nature. What’s more, the Son is the one who manifests and makes known the Father (John 17:24-26). Drawing these biblical threads together, we can say that from all eternity God has had with him an image, a representation, a reflection of his own infinite perfection and beauty, and through this image has fully and completely known, understood and expressed himself”

– Joe Rigney in Things of Earth: Treasuring God By Enjoy His Gifts

Respond from the Heart