Reading: Genesis 5
For three years I had a little boy live with me as my foster son. He came to me as a two year old who could barley speak but had a most excellent ability to climb. The very first day he was with us, my husband and I took him to the park where the little man decided to do a summersault down the biggest slide available. Andy and I looked at each other and I remember saying, “We’re in trouble.”
It turns out that boy brought us a great deal more joy than trouble, though the trouble he caused was impressive. One of the joys of being his foster parent was being able to prepare him to return home to bio parents. I knew about 3 months before he actually moved out that it was happening and during those three months a stranger said something to me that cut to the quick of the situation.
She looked at my shoulder length blond hair, then to this boy’s shoulder length blond hair. She watched us walking hand-in-hand and she smiled at me and said, “Well there is no mistaking who his mom is”. I just smiled, and kept walking but her words haunted me a little even as I laughed at them.
The first sentence of Genesis 5 is “This the written account of Adam’s line”. The phrase “This is the account of…” is repeated 7 times through Genesis and acts as a cue that a concept/story has ended and a new concept/story is beginning. Thus far we have studied the act of creation, the Fall, and the realization of what sin brought into the world. In essence, we have been introduced to Yahweh, His power, His creativity, His worthiness, and His justice. We have been introduced to humanity, and we have been introduced to this idea of sin and we have begun to see what sin does to humanity and to creation.
Genesis 5 begins a new concept: just as God created the animals and plants to produce more according to their kind, so too do men produce more of their kind. “When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image, and he named him Seth.” Hopefully that language is strikingly familiar to you, if not, here is a reminder: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.” -Genesis 1:27.
The similarity in language is no accident.
Though humans have chosen themselves over God and over nature, though humans have learned jealousy and murder, though humans broke the world, they had not lost the image of God.
A boy is born-a human all his own, unique from every other person ever born, and yet in ways that are sometimes mysterious and sometimes obvious, this boy reflects his father. Hard as it is to explain or to fully grasp, every person born reflects their parents, but more than that, each person reflects God. We reflect Yahweh when we create, when we love, when we work, by just existing. In a million little ways we shine and shimmer and hint at the essence of our Creator.
Adam and Eve’s story seemingly ends with hopelessness, with loss, with a humanity too broken to save, too selfish to be worth saving. But then we see that miraculously, the most valuable aspect of our identity survived the Fall. Even in our brokenness, even with our sinful natures, we can still look like, act like, and introduce other people to Yahweh God, Creator and Savior.
One of those things that surprised me about doing foster care when I first started was that I did not want people to think that I was the parent of these children. Sometimes foster kids behave in ways that do not make the adults associated with them proud. I remember one particular incident where the boy I wrote about earlier had been playing in the mall and a woman walked up to me and snappishly said, “Your son just hit somebody.” It didn’t feel good. My instinct in those moments is to explain their behavior-to defend a child by explaining how their whole world has been turned upside down and inside out and the child has never been trained to communicate in a civilized way and so this 3-4 year old is 3-4 years behind your child in emotional and social development and none of that is my fault in any way. But of coarse I don’t do that. Instead of making excuses or distancing myself, I parent.
And that’s the thing. Yes, sometimes these kids will look like me, but more often than not, what strangers see is that these kids are learning to behave like me in both good and bad ways. They reflect the people they know best in their lives and just like children, we are most likely to reflect the person with which we spend the most time. Yes, the image of God survived the Fall, but it is also something that we can seek to strengthen within ourselves by spending time with the Father.
I considered trying to define clearly every aspect of humanity that I would consider to be a part of the image of God. But that would be a task as endless as describing all the good in every person on earth. All our value, all our good comes from our Creator.
Genesis 5 may seem like a meaningless list of men and their sons to some, but to me, it is a precious moment taken during the narrative the Scripture tells to underline that though there is a nature that tends toward evil in every person, there is also a nature that leans toward Yahweh. It’s a good lesson to review before discussing Noah and the flood.