Image Bearer; A Story of a Boy

A letter to my son

It's just days before you turn eighteen. I'll refrain from all the mushy clichés because I have a story to tell you. I know, I know. I've told you this story before. But I didn't tell you how it ends.

So God created mankind in his own image

{Mankind wasn't intended to resemble dad or mom, those folks who work tirelessly to bring up mini versions of their best self. You may have your mother's smile and sarcasm and your dad's handsome features and easy way of remembering the time line of history, but you were designed to reflect one greater },

in the image of God he created them. Genesis 1:27

    Circa October 2002

It was picture day at school. I had a cute blue button-up shirt picked out for you for first grade pictures. Barring a stubborn incident with the cowlick on the backside of your head, it was shaping up to be an easy morning.

That was until we looked for the cumpulsory white undershirt you were accustomed to wearing. A plain white T-shirt was nowhere to be found. After tearing through the shirt drawer I decided on a white shirt that your Ma had made for you with an iron-on image of you fishing in Colorado.

This white t-shirt was wrinkled and the picture was faded and peeling slightly from my over-drying it (when it probably was never intended to see the inside of a washing machine or dryer).

You put on the t-shirt and then slipped on the blue collared over-shirt. You came to breakfast with your over-shirt unbuttoned looking quite satisfied with yourself. I looked disapprovingly and told you that the undershirt didn't need to show. "You need to button your shirt," I told you. You protested, but I stood firm (being the "stickler of trivial matters" that I am).

Ushering you into Chilton Elementary, I gave you a quick squeeze and reminded you to say "Cheese!".

    Several weeks later you shuffled into my classroom with an envelope stuffed in your backpack. I took out the envelope and looked eagerly. There you were, sunshine against a mottled gray background.

Do you love that the shirt says PROOF?!  Haha. Busted.
Do you love that the shirt says PROOF?! Haha. Busted.


…. with no trace of self reproach. Like a little Fonz, you looked cool,…. calm and collected. You smiled comfortably for the camera; the kind of smile that's more of a happy face than a forced grin.

Sitting quietly at my desk, I quickly thought back. Had you come in my classroom the afternoon of Picture Day with your shirt unbuttoned? I knew you hadn't. You had obligingly wore the shirt to school just as I had requested and had finished the day with the buttons still in their place. Then came your admission. You had unbuttoned the shirt for picture time;

the real you emblazoned on your chest.

It was your moment.

    That mutinous moment was short-lived. Thankfully it was captured on photo paper.

    That Picture Day was one of those days your image was revealed.

            The you beneath.

Unlike the you I had groomed, your loosed self was showing.

You were charming and brilliant and winsome.

You know this story.

    You may also know I have spent countless mornings buttoning you up. And I have spent the same checking to see if you remained fastened. Do this/Be this. Think this way. Love these things…..

In many ways you have fit into the mold I created. In other ways, despite my constant grooming, I see before me this image I had little to do with creating.

For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

For instance, you're so funny. It's not a quality I would have ranked so highly had I been given a list of attributes that I could persuade or teach you to have. No, being a person who can incite laughter at both appropriate and seemingly inappropriate times would never have crossed my mind in being important. On the contrary, your laughter is one of the greatest gifts of my life.

A cheerful heart is good medicine. Proverbs 17:22

Your love of studying history and of learning about different cultures isn't something I instilled in you either. I taught you how important it is to do whatever it takes to make good grades. But it's the things you've learned on your own time that you've shared with me that I find absolutely fascinating.

You are full of so many things I never saw coming.

    I hope to be given some sort of credit for having taught you to take your plate to the sink and to go out of your way to show kindness to those who appear to need it most. Guiding you, after all, is a big part of the "Mom Job".

    But you bear an image on your own two feet underneath those broadening shoulders.

The time is drawing near for me to step back and behold God's design in you. It's high time I proclaim like Hannah, mother of Samuel,

"Yes! Let God complete what he has begun!" (1 Samuel 1:23 the Message).

I really don't know the end of the story. Much of your story is just beginning. You've outgrown your over shirt. Your image is being better revealed. I can't wait to see you display God's handiwork.

Like the grand idea the first grade boy had for Picture Day, I'll wish I had thought of it myself.

Sun's Out
Sun's Out

You are my sunshine.



8 thoughts on “Image Bearer; A Story of a Boy

  1. Miranda

    great story!! Funny how we "think" they understand how serious we are only to find out years later our seriousness in our trivial things taught us the lesson! Love you guys so much! This is great guys!!

  2. Michelle Askew

    I think as parents we are reluctant to sit back and watch the qualities that God instilled in our children. That doesn't measure what a good mom we've been. But the joys of recognizing the Godly traits as they develop are incomparable.

  3. Nancy Hanshew


    I just recently stumbled upon your blog. I added my name to the list and I must say that I am so glad I did.

    So many times I am reminded that God knows better than I do just what I need in my life and when I need it..I believe this was one of those times.

    Thank you so much for sharing these parts of your life that provide such insight in life and what God has for all of us if we just trust Him to lead us and love us.


    1. Kristi Burden

      Post author

      Sorry to just now reply Nancy. Thanks so much for this note. It made my day. I've often said that writing out my thoughts is one of the ways God helps me work through the things in my life. God's hand is in all things. Thank you for reading. Love you and your family still. You were a special part of my growing up.


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