It has been said we are made in the image of God. And while we certainly sport vastly different looks on the outside, we are all, as the Guide tells it, absolutely identical to God in one key inner way: we all have free will. This is a factory-installed feature in all human beings, built into even in the most basic models, but one we are often not even aware of.
In fact, some days, don’t we wish God would stop letting us navigate our own way and just step in to make our tough choices for us? Life’s hard and we sure would like to get a pass on digging ourselves out of our self-made holes. If God were a good God, we think, God should bust us out of the prisons we believe others have put us in.
But truth be told, any time we find ourselves locked in an unpleasant situation, the path that brought us to this point has been guided by our own choices. It may now seem that all options are unfavorable, but along the way, we had chances to create a different outcome. If we mine our lives to see when and where those decision points happened, we will uncover valuable lessons for ourselves. We will take responsibility for how things have unfolded, and hopefully, in the future, we will learn to make wiser choices.
Free will, then, is a defining advantage. Too often, though, it seems we’ve been given enough rope to hang ourselves.
And yet, without free will, all our efforts to return to God would fall short. Without it, we wouldn’t be a match for God, and therefore wouldn’t be able to once again merge with the great “I am” at the end of our great “man-am-I-exhausted” sojourn home. And really, why work so hard to get home if once we’re there, we find our key no longer fits in the door.
Another way to interpret this statement about being made in the image of God is to say “we are made with an image of God.” Here, we need to understand the Guide’s definition of an “image”: a mistaken conclusion drawn during childhood about life. Our image of God then is more like a case of mistaken identity. We draw a conclusion about our parents and then hang that on God.
We draw a conclusion about our parents and then hang that on God.
It may help to see this by thinking it through in reverse. Find a few phrases that come to mind when thinking about God during hard times. For example: “God doesn’t care about me” or “I feel abandoned by God.” Or maybe “God gives everyone else what they want, but God withholds the goodies from me.” Or “God has forgotten about me.” Or “My needs don’t matter to God.” We could go on and on.
Once we find something that resonates, we can then consider how we feel about our parents, or did at least some of the time when we were little. Chances are good, if we dig around in the weeds, we’ll find a match. This is what the Guide calls our God Image. Thing is, this thing we believe to be true about God? It isn’t true. At all. But try telling that to the hurting inner aspect of ourselves.
No really, consider that some wires have gotten crossed and this needs to get cleared up. Sit down, maybe even holding a pillow to help bring that young aspect into the room, and have a chat. Try to tell that young split-off part that while we may not know exactly what God is or how to describe God, God isn’t fairly represented by this bundle of thoughts that come to mind when we think of how we felt as a kid.
There’s another place this kind of misguided mental overlay shows up. It’s called transference, and we can find it pretty much anywhere. Transference is what happens when an old unresolved hurt—that sits dormant in our systems, just waiting to be healed—gets twanged.
Our friends or colleagues can easily drum up hurts that came from our family of origin. And either a man or a woman can activate wounds that came from either our father or mother. It can happen at any time, from even a seemingly benign interaction, and suddenly we are no longer seeing the person standing in front of us for who they are: a human with normal human failings who has accidentally snagged our trip wire.
Transference is what happens when an old unresolved hurt gets twanged.
When this happens, we get blown out of the present moment and start to act and react from the place of an old hurt; we are effectively in a trance. But most often, we don’t realize this. Our work is to begin noticing that, “Hey, something is up with me. I seem to be reacting out of all proportion to this thing that happened yesterday.”
Somewhat like what happens with our God Image, we also transfer our stuck, unexpressed reactions onto anyone in authority. It might help to listen to our talk over dinner about our boss or some leader of our nation, replaying our words and listening to them in relation to someone from our history. Yes, most likely we would use the same phrases to talk about our childhood wounds. “This is what they are doing to me” will match “this is what they did to me.”
By unwinding the source of our hurts—where they live inside us—and healing our old wounds, we come into a more real relationship with life. We step back into reality. Now we can have conversations that serve to resolve issues and build connections, instead of blowing things up by reacting from our history.
This is how we embark on a healing journey, using our images as our map. This is how we free ourselves from the prisons of our pain. This is how we find our true selves and light up our life with more joy.
This is how we make God smile. And that always makes for a truly beautiful reflection back on us.
Chapter 9: Images and the Deep, Deep Damage They Do
Chapter 11: Our Habit of Transferring our Split onto Everyone
Chapter 14: Exposing the Mistaken Image we have About God