As you said, We are created in the image and likeness of God. It all began ( and sort of ended) in the Garden of Eden. God sought fellowship and made man. It was perfect for a while. When Adam and Eve fell, and were cast out, the woes of the world began. Since that time, the Old Testament recounts the multiple attempts God made to return us to Grace. Noah and the flood, The atonements of blood sacrifice in the law, and eventually the prophets. Lots of unsuccessful trials to restore fellowship. Man continued to do his own thing, ignoring the call.
It is that sin that keeps us apart from Him, God cannot look upon sin. Finally, as a last resort, He figured The only way to get 'er done, was to do it himself....through Christ. God became man, dwelt among men, and lived without sin. He became the atonement, the sacrifice for any and all men. But only if we acknowledge and accept it....like a gift. It is a gift, that of Eternity in the presence of God.
By accepting Jesus' death and resurrection as the atonement for our personal sins, we are restored to fellowship and a personal relationship with God. It ain't Eden, but it's as close as we will get in our lifetime!
It doesn't mean there won't be any more sin or problems or doubt or fear, but that there is a direct line to Him and the opportunity to fulfill His plan in our lives. The point here is that there is a plan and a purpose for your life. You are called to this and it is up to you to step out and answer the call.
I can't tell you how it's done, there are a ton of folks to keep track of, that's for sure.... But the bible says that He knew me before I was born and has counted the hair on my head and numbered my days. This is for each of us. We don't need to understand the "how", just believe it to be so.
There's a verse that says " obedience comes first, understanding later". We are not privy to the mind of God, especially when we are out of fellowship. We see " through a glass darkly". Once we restore that relationship, " the scales fall from our eyes " and we begin to put it all together. Faith builds faith. Just a little bit will grow and more of the mysteries are revealed. I do have a long list of questions to ask when I get to Heaven, though!
All I can say, is that I wouldn't trade this in for anything, even if I could. This has been one hell of a ride! I have a peace and a hope that carry me through good times and bad. Things make more sense this way, my path is lit.... If only a little bit in front of my feet! I guess you have to take the leap to know what I experience. Just leap, and the net will appear!
I do think you are being called.. I am a poor messenger, and am not as articulate as I'd like to be. But I know that you grew up with all the same teachings I did, good bible verses that are locked in our minds waiting to come to life when you take that step. Until then they are only nice words.
It's pretty silly, but what pushed me over the edge on that day I asked Jesus to come into my heart and I accepted that gift of salvation, was the thought "What if they're right!?!?"
So, I say to you...... What if I'm right? There's nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
Love ya', Bro.