“Mommy! Why am I so special?” was the question the little guy in front of me in the Walmart aisle was demanding his Mother answer. His Grandma who was with him had just told him that he was so special, had pinched his cheeks and then kissed and hugged him enthusiastically. Giggling and squirming aside, this little guy wanted a rationale for the explosive gestures of love he had just been showered with. His mother went on and on about all his cute physical qualities, his amazing personality characteristics and how great he was as a son and brother; lists of attributes which set him apart was the basis of her reply.
Now on first listen, we may not think anything of her answer and in truth, there is nothing really wrong with it. However, if we leave our “specialness” as people to what we are like, what we do, and what makes being in a relationship with us so wonderful, we actually miss the deeper theological truth we can share with our children. Yes, tell them how great they are, but let’s not leave it at that.
What makes us special? In Genesis 1 and 2, God lets us know that we alone in creation are made in His image; we are the object of His special love and the pinnacle of His creation. Being an image bearer sets us apart in some way, so now, we just have to figure out what that way is. Throughout the centuries, it is man’s communicable qualities with God, or his mission and function in the world or his relationship abilities that have been tied to image bearing. And while all of these have merit, there is nothing that uniquely qualifies man to be set apart which is equally displayed throughout all the human race. We are indeed a diverse bunch!
What is the image we bear? If we view Genesis 2 as an unpacking of Genesis 1, the one thing that emerges in Genesis 2:7 is that God breathed life into Adam; this can be translated the breath of life or perhaps even better, the Soul of life or the Spirit of life. If we view this as what makes us special, then this explains why God sees all humans as equally valuable. Only humanity has what is required to be a participant in God’s special love (special providence).
If the soul qualifies us for specialness, then all external factors are secondary. So whether our children are gifted intellectually or struggle, whether they have perfect eye sight or require braces to walk, whether they connect with everyone or are unable to attach to anyone, every person has a complete God-given soul which makes them equally valuable and a recipient of His redemption and glory; God’s general love applies to everyone.
How do we communicate this image-bearing specialness to our children? Children want to hear what makes them special and their unique qualities are great to articulate so it gives them an idea of how God has made them individually unique. However, there is a specialness about them that has nothing to do with individual qualities but rather celebrates their uniqueness as a part of the human race. Connecting them to the whole of what it means to be human is just as important as what sets them apart from everyone else.
Being made in God’s image, we as people are special because:
- We are different from the rest of creation
- See how beautiful the stars are and the flowers that bloom? See how fun our puppy is and how cuddly our kitten? We are more special than these.
- God is Spirit and so are we; we have a soul.
- We are the only part of creation that has the very breath of God (Genesis 2:7). God took His very essence and placed this within us.
- As believers, our soul can be united with God.
- We all sin; but God so values us, He removed the sin that separates us from Himself and unites our soul with Himself if we believe (John 3:16). He does this for people alone – not angels, not mountains, not animals. Only people are united with God spiritually
- What makes me special is my soul, so it doesn’t matter if I’m not the prettiest, smartest, strongest or most popular. I am already special no matter what anyone else says.
- Everyone is worthy of compassion, time, attention and help merely because they are human. Our worth is not based on our comparison to one another, but the mere fact that we have a soul, given to us by God. We see this truth in the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).
What makes me special? When God revealed who He was to Moses, he said to tell the people that “I Am” sent you. We could take this apologetic and echo it in our defense of our worth; I am special merely because I am. That is enough. We are of infinite value and worthy of respect, and kindness and love merely because we are.
Dear Reader, how freeing it is for each of us and our children to realize our worth has nothing to do with what we can and can’t accomplish, or what our personality is or isn’t like, or what other people do or don’t enjoy about us. My worth, your worth, their worth is untouchable. I encourage you to give your children a sense of their worth by not just telling them what makes them individually special, but why amidst all of creation, their worth is found in God’s design of them; they are image bearers with a soul and thus, they have an unshakable value.
Blessings to each of you! Fondly yours, Elizabeth
But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29)