We Are All Image Bearers of God

Heather Avis Quote

“If we make space in our lives for certain kinds of people but not others, we will never know the fullness of God or understand the depths of God’s love for humanity.” ~ Heather Avis

It was the last day of family camp. My husband and I sat with our two-year-old daughter at the breakfast table in the large dining hall. Our dirty clothes and slightly disheveled hair were evidence that it had been a fun, full, and exhausting week. Just as we were getting ready to stack our dishes and head to the car, a couple we had been getting to know during the week approached us and asked if they could pray for us before we headed down the mountain. They specified that they wanted to pray for our daughter.

Some important information before continuing with this story: This was a common offer from people who believe in the power of prayer because at the time, our daughter had a lung condition which required her to be on oxygen 24/7. The sight of a baby on oxygen brings lots of stares and questions and is often the topic of conversation when meeting people for the first time. For the sake of this story it is important to note that our daughter has Down syndrome, which brings its own set of stares and questions and conversations.

Back to the story. This well-meaning couple stood near us and placed their hands on our daughter and began to pray. We nodded our heads in agreement to their words of healing and restoration until they said, “And God, we know You are powerful, and You can also take away her extra chromosome and heal her of Down syndrome.” I looked up in total shock. I wanted to yell, “Stop! Don’t pray for that.” But as a new and young mother, I said nothing.

It has been nine years since that prayer took place. And in these past nine years not only have my daughter’s lungs been totally healed and restored, but I also found my voice. And here is what I wished I would have said to that couple:

Please do not pray for my daughter to not have Down syndrome for this is a foolish and harmful prayer. You see, God created my daughter and she is not a mistake. In Psalm 139:13-14 when David wrote the words:

For You created my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
— Psalm 139:13-14

He did not go on to say, “these words are only true for those of us who are fully able bodied without any cognitive delays or differences”. I would tell that couple that these verses are true for my daughter with Down syndrome as well. I would tell them that when God created her, He added an extra chromosome to every cell in her body with purpose and intention. I would remind them that when God says humans are created in the image of God, that means my daughter with Down syndrome is an image bearer of God. Which means she reflects the character and heart of God in a way only she can… with Down syndrome.

And the lessons God has taught me through my daughter with Down syndrome don’t end there. In fact, raising my daughter has taught me that there is no way we can even begin to know God fully if we do not know the people God has created, even and especially, those who are very different from us. If we want to know the heart of God, then we need to intentionally seek out and foster relationships with people who are different than us.

When I think about that couple at family camp, I believe that if they had been intentional in seeking out a relationship with a person with Down syndrome, they never would have dreamed of praying away our daughter’s extra chromosome. If they had a relationship with a person with Down syndrome, they would have seen the goodness and humanity in that person, they would have seen the image of God in a new and more complete way.

This is why full-inclusion, doing life with those who are so different than us, is crucial for the health of the body of Christ. This is why it’s important to take notice of who is missing in our lives and to be intentional in creating a space for them.  Because…

If we make space in our lives for certain kinds of people but not others, we will never know the fullness of God or understand the depths of God’s love for humanity.

And friends, God loves us all so much. Just as my daughter was created as a precious and unique image bearer of God, so too are you. God loves you so much, just as you are. You are created, by the Creator, to be uniquely you. So am I. And so is every person crafted by the loving hands of a good and loving God. We are all unique reflections of a loving, beautiful and fully inclusive God.

Written for Devotionals Daily by Heather Avis, author of Scoot Over and Make Some Room.

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Your Turn

Who do you know who reflects the character and heart of God in a way only they can… with Down syndrome? Come share with us on our blog. We would love to hear about how that person has taught you above the love of God the Father! ~ Devotionals Daily

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