The single tap on my office window sounded too intentional to be a windblown acorn. And then it came again, this time in triplicate: tap-tap-tap, an intentional and aggressive rap on the glass. I was one part curious and two parts wary about why someone might be trying to get my attention in such an arresting way. The tap-tap-tap came again in the same urgent, rhythmic beat. I opened the blinds slowly.
The blue jay was perched on the ledge, its head cocked to one side, its beak aimed for another strike. Tap-tap-tap. For a moment, I imagined it was asking to come in, but I knew its motivation was really more hostile. The blue jay wasn’t politely tapping for my attention; rather, it was assaulting its own reflection. It spent all that fine spring morning tapping at the window, banging its beak against the glass, fighting itself in a frustrating attempt to chase its image away.
I fight my own reflection at times.
At the heart of my spiritual tradition is an understanding that I’m “made in God’s image”—intimately connected with who God is, rooted in the Divine. My true being is a reflection of God’s very nature. Also at the heart of my spiritual tradition is a trust that God’s nature is visible in the person Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, “the imprint of God’s being” (Hebrews 1:3). And the summation of all I know about Jesus is that he is love-in-the-flesh. In fact, directly from this understanding of Jesus springs the phrase in Scripture “God is love” (1 John 4:16) and its oft-forgotten, equally scriptural mirror image “love is God.”
So I’m made in the image of God, in the image of Love, in the image of Love as revealed in Christ. Even though I sometimes forget, it’s who I am. Even though we tend to forget, Love is who we are.
The blue jay pecking away at its image poses a question. When I find myself giving in to antagonism, fear, frustration, or anger, am I really fighting against my true self?
In my current ministry, I sometimes visit with churches in conflict. People square off against one other, often thinking they are acting in the best interest of the church, sometimes claiming spiritual high ground–a precarious position with a tendency to create tremendous damage. But as an outsider listening to their stories, I find that the true battle is against the Love at the heart of their deepest nature. The conflict within each person seems to be a self-inflicted pecking away at the Christ-image of their true identity. I have heard and read shockingly unloving words spoken between people who populate the community of the God of Love. I have witnessed remarkably anti-Christlike behavior among people who advertise a connection to Christ. We so easily forget who we are.
But how might disagreement transform if people listen and respond with a fundamental recognition of their identity in way of Christ-defined love?
Or from a personal point of view, how might conflicted situations transform if I first recognize myself as an image of Love?
Recognizing the true image we are meant to reflect might not immediately solve the tougher problems, but it absolutely will help us see with wider vision and with deeper understanding–see with God’s eyes, see with eyes of Love. When we see ourselves as love-in-the-flesh and conflicted situations as an opportunities to grow love between us, we are far more likely to make choices consistent with who we really are and far more likely to discover a “peace that passes all understanding.”
Maybe this is what it really means to follow “the will of God.” Maybe it simply means being true to the image of Love at the heart of who we are and letting that image lead to creative, unexpected, and perhaps novel solutions.
Well, that’s an awfully overthought reflection about something as mundane as a bird fighting its own reflection in my office window, but maybe it’s a simple word I might need to hear today. And maybe it’s a word that might make a difference in your world, too.