Then God said, “Let us make man in our image,
after our likeness….”
The aroma of incense is strong. My friend Lauren and I walk barefooted up the steps to the main room of the temple. Here the idols are displayed, deities housed in inner sanctums, labeled with signs asking only the priests to enter.
So many gods. Some resemble humans. One a monkey; another an elephant. A table displays gods representing the sun, moon, and planets.A young priest approaches us and kindly attempts explanations. Originally from India, he has served at the Hindu temple in Memphis for five years. He is on loan here for a month. His accent is thick, his English is broken, but we communicate well enough to know there is much we can’t understand.
A devout Hindu woman enters. She picks up a song book and sits cross-legged on the floor, facing one of the main gods. She raises her voice with great beauty and foreign tongue.
I don’t understand the words, but I understand her intent. She is worshiping.
Lauren and I continue gazing at the intricate carvings and bright colors and jewels used to depict and decorate the gods, in stark contrast to the metal money boxes placed around them. For a price, you can sponsor a puja, a religious ceremony offering a gift to the god and in turn receive its blessing.
The priest returns to us. He has gifts. He offers us each an apple and an orange. “For you,” he tells us.
We’re uncertain what to do. We accept his gift and say, “Thank you.”
The Hindu woman stops singing. The priest walks over and stands near her. He speaks words we don’t understand, but we assume he is giving her a blessing.
He takes something to the statue, then returns to the woman with more words and motions.
There is much about other religions I do not understand.
Admittedly, there is much about my own I do not understand.
But I do understand this: I was made in the image of my God. And my God came down in my form—a human—and lived like me.
He ate, played, slept, walked, prayed. He felt the heat of a summer day and the pain of sharp objects and the heaviness of sorrow.
He lived. He died. He lives forever.
So that I could become like him.
Live like him—in kindness and wholeness and in honor of the Father.
Forever, too. (I can’t quite grasp it, but I know it is true.)
And even though I don’t see him in me very often, I understand he lives there. I know he’s transforming me. It’s a blessing already paid for.
So I love him. I worship him. With words I understand.
Lauren and I walk downstairs, put on our shoes, and walk out toward the light. Away from the temple. Their gods stay there.
But our God goes on.
With us. His priests (Revelation 1:6).
In us. His temples (1 Corinthians 6:19).
You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him
who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)
* * *
Lauren will be traveling to India soon to stay for several months, spreading the love of Jesus. If you’d like, please join me in praying for her preparations and for her journey to and in India.