“I am always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugliness and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both.” “I am haunted by humans.”
These are the words by which Death, narrator of The Book Thief, concludes his observations about humanity, in all of its contradictions. I wrote about the power of this film (and novel) for Christianity Today earlier this year and how taken I had been with the glory of humanity as portrayed in the film.
“Instinctively, we recognize the worst in ourselves, and this lends an immediate believability to horror. But glory? Humans as glorious? Empirically, we can verify this less frequently. In fact, we may only know it to be true because the Scriptures insist on the work of the glorious Man-God, whose suffering is meant for restoring each of us to our (derivative) glory (Heb. 2:10).”
I’m happy to recommend a book I’ve recently read that I think deals superbly with so basic a theme as humanity: Made for More (Moody), by Hannah Anderson, carves a path into identity, avoiding what she calls “nearsightedness of the soul.” She begs us to recover an understanding of our own identity in Christ that is bigger than gender, race, vocation, roles, and responsibilities. “We can see the details [of identity] well enough, but we can’t grasp their significance.” According to Anderson, we need to recover what is most fundamental to who we are: that we are made in the image of God.
We must find our identity in the imago dei.
The book stands on solid theological footing, and Anderson is precise in word and thought. (This cannot be overstated: page after page, paragraph after paragraph, I found myself awed by the careful construction, not just of her sentences, but of her arguments.) She begins in the Garden, helping us realize that to be human is to be made to live in communion with God, to live in relationship with other human beings, and to steward creation the way God does. This framework is sufficiently broad so as to eclipse the narrowed (and heated) debates over women’s roles. In this way, it’s a welcome addition to our libraries, and I can imagine Made for More being used as a discipleship resource in many churches.
But perhaps what I appreciate most about Anderson’s book is its treatment of desire. I think she gets desire right in this book – understanding its pitfalls and promise, especially as we seek to understand ourselves.
“Ultimately, the only way to find identity imago dei is to have our hearts shaped after God’s own heart. To love what he loves so we will do what He does . . . And when we desire the right things, we will do the right things.”
Anderson warns against the siren song of the world, which insists, “You will only truly be yourself if you pursue what you want and what you love,” and reorients us toward the faithful submission of our desires: “Faith teaches we will never be more truly ourselves than as we are conformed to God’s nature through Christ.” And finally, she reminds us that God is committed to our good (which is of course where all desire drives – the want for good):
“While our good is found in seeking His glory, it is His glory to bring about our ultimate good.”
Made for More is theologically dense and language rich, and I can’t wait to read more of what Anderson writes in the years ahead.