Elementary school seems to be the time period when we learn all about different forms of communication. Letter writing. Short stories. Poetry. My younger son Tim, who has Down syndrome, once graced me with a school Valentine poem/project that read something like this:

Roses are blue, violets are red.
Be careful this crocodile, doesn’t bite off your head.

That’s the kind of poetry that only an 8-year-old boy can create. (Thank goodness Hallmark doesn’t hire 8-year-old boys to write their Valentine cards!)

One poetic form that I remember learning, and that the Bible actually employs in the Psalms, is the acrostic. Miriam Webster defines an acrostic this way: “a composition usually in verse in which sets of letters (such as the initial or final letters of the lines) taken in order form a word or phrase or a regular sequence of letters of the alphabet.” Over the years, I’ve written many pieces on the image of God. For a change of pace this time, let’s try an acrostic. Acrostics can make it easy to remember things—so maybe this format will help all of us to remember, throughout the year, what it means to be created in the image of God. I.M.A.G.E.

I = Inherently valuable

Where do you find your value in life? I mean, really: where do you really find your inherent sense of worth? Is it in your job title? How about your salary? Maybe it is in the number of educational degrees you have amassed, or the inventory of influential people you know. Perhaps it’s more tied to how nicely you dress, what neighborhood you live in, or what type of car you drive. Or it could be intertwined with your children. Are they smart? Athletic? Well-behaved? All of the above? (None of the above?) What do any of those things—at the most substantial level—really say about you or about me?

Our true value derives from something—Someone—so much greater than and more stable than any of those temporal things. In the context of the Creation Story, Genesis 1:26 tells us, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Did you catch that? We are made in God’s image and after God’s likeness. In other words, God has intentionally and perpetually identified himself with us. We are not God. And we are not gods. But we are intrinsically related to God in the most purposeful sort of way. Want to be a name dropper? Drop God’s name. You’re wearing his Designer label, through and through. That is our central source of identity for each of us.

M = Made for a purpose

Not only are we inherently valuable because we are Designer-made, but we are also Designer-created for a royal purpose. The rest of Genesis 1:26 reads as follows, “And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over every living thing that creeps on the earth.” That purpose is expanded upon in Genesis 1:28 when it says, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it…’” God, the Creator-King appoints humanity as his vice-regents to care for and develop his created world, under his authority. And this commission is intended to be a wonderful blessing. The creative manifestation of this God-given purpose can have countless expressions. Farming. Building. Raising families. Producing goods and services. Creating communities. Adorning the world with art. Teaching. Serving. Feeding. Image bearers are made to care for and develop God’s created world as faithful stewards of the Creator-King.

A = Aligned with the Creator-King

Being faithful stewards of the Creator-King, however, requires that our hearts be fully aligned with our Creator-King’s heart. Our wills must align with God’s will. We were made to delight in our identity and in our purpose by living in ways that are utterly consistent with God’s character and under his sovereign, loving rule. In practice, this means that we not only find our identity in him, and we not only find deep purpose in the work he has given us: he also wants his name to be represented and his work to be completed in ways that ultimately reflect his character out into the world around us. It is not enough to be Designer-made. Our lives were made to be consistently Designer-reflecting as well, because our hearts are meant to align with his.

G = Givers of life

Our identity as image-bearers is given at the pinnacle of the story of God’s fabulously wonderful and life-giving creation of the heavens, and the earth, and everything in it. If our identity is in him, and our purpose is to care for and develop his created world, and our hearts are to align with his in that task—then our destiny is to be life-giving in all that we do, just as God is. Here’s the thing: God is life-giving not just in what he does but being the giver of life permeates everything about who he is. When Jesus—the God-man—is introduced in the Gospel of John, John writes, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Further along in the Gospel, John repeats the same theme when he quotes Jesus. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b). Our lives too, are meant be life-giving to those around us.

E = Embracing God’s Story

Finally, after traveling the path from remembering that we are inherently valuable, to reminding ourselves that we are made for a purpose, to hearing the call that our hearts are to align with our Creator’s, to aspiring to the wonderful mission of being givers of life—we now need to ground ourselves in this firm reality also: that we are both finite and fallen creatures.

As finite creatures, we don’t write our own stories—God our Creator-King and Designer does. As his image-bearers, part of our mission is to embrace the story with which he has entrusted us. We are limited, and we live within our limits. God is unlimited, and he will transcend our limits in the ways in which he uses our stories.

We also need to recognize, distinct from being finite, that we are fallen. And as fallen creatures, we do not image God well. We do image him, but we do so in distorted ways.

We sometimes fail to honor others with the value they inherently possess.

We don’t always want to serve within God’s royal purposes, we often want to be the royalty ourselves.

We don’t naturally reflect all that is good and true and beautiful about God without distortion—and in so doing, we dishonor his name when we won’t align with his fame.

We have to fight against selfish tendencies to be life-takers instead of life-givers, in abundance, as Jesus is.

And that’s where embracing God’s story comes full circle—because that is where Jesus is.

The gospel tells us that Jesus has done all that we fail to do and has made all things right for us with our Creator-King. When his Spirit indwells us, by faith, the very goal of the Spirit is to conform us to Christ, who is the image of God. Christ is not in the image of God. Oh no! He is the very image of God—the perfect representation of his being. In Christ, we can come full circle again.

We can fully embrace our inherent value while also knowing we are loved so deeply that we have been sacrificially redeemed.

We can fully embrace that we are made for a purpose and joyfully embrace that purpose in light of God’s saving work on our behalf.

We can align our hearts with God’s, for Christ has given us a new heart and his Spirit to transform us more and more into his likeness so that our hearts beat more and more with his.

We can invest in being givers of life because we know what it means that Christ has given his life for us.

And we can embrace God’s story—not only because he writes it, not only because he redeems it, but because Jesus is the Hero of our life’s story, and our deepest sense of meaning comes from knowing him in and through the story God has entrusted to us.

So, with all of that in mind, here’s a third-grade-level closing poem, just to wrap things up:

Roses are blue, violets are red.
We’re made in God’s I.M.A.G.E., let’s believe what he said.

 We can’t live up to it, accept that as true.
Clearly God knows, that’s what Christ came to do.

 So embrace you have value, but know even more,
 In Christ, your God-given value will soar.

 We’re made for a purpose, yet we battle our will.
Indwelt by the Spirit, God’s work we’ll fulfill.

 Aligned for the King, yet prone to our way.
The good news of Christ makes our hearts want to stay.

 Made to give life, yet so prone to take.
Christ’s grace enables these habits to break.

 Embracing his story, not writing our own.
Our fullest, “best life” is when Christ’s on the throne.


About the Author:

Stephanie Hubach

Stephanie O. Hubach is a Research Fellow in Disability Ministries in affiliation with Covenant Theological Seminary. From 2007-2016 she served as the Founding Director of Mission to North America’s Special Needs Ministries (Presbyterian Church in America). She is also a founding member of the Lancaster Christian Council on Disability (LCCD). Steph is the author of Parenting & Disabilities: Abiding in God’s Presence (P&R Publishing, 2021), Same Lake, Different Boat: Coming Alongside People Touched by Disability (P&R Publishing, 2006, Revised & Expanded Edition 2020), and All Things Possible: Calling Your Church Leadership to Disability Ministry (Joni and Friends, 2007). She has been published in ByFaith magazine, Focus on the Family magazine, and Breakpoint online magazine and produced a Christian Education DVD series based on Same Lake, Different Boat. Steph and her husband have two deeply loved sons, the younger of whom has Down syndrome. For further information on her work, go to