And God saw that it was good.
As I sit down to write, I can hear my housemate working in his workshop. I think he told me earlier that he was building a birdhouse. I wonder how he will feel about his work when he is done. And I wonder if I will feel like when I am done writing.
Creation is a risky business. Some days I sit down with a thought as clear as day, but the fog in my mind, the music on the radio, and the impending tasks of the day conspire to lock my thoughts down, somewhere between my frontal lobes and my fingertips. The more I engage in the process of creation, the more I am struck by the inevitability of incompletion. I have to rearrange my definition of good to allow myself to let go of my thoughts. I have to give myself grace for the incomplete goodness of my work. I suspect the same goes for my housemate, with his birdhouse.
And, looking around me, I would imagine that God must share our need for self-grace. Even his creation is groaning for completion, for more. Mountains are constantly eroding. Wildfires sweep through and make desolate the distinguished forests, full of trees. Tsunamis and hurricanes swallow up tens and hundreds of thousands of men and women- the crowns of his creation- every year. Even the Promised Land is far from being the land of milk and honey, in spite of the recent promises for peace between Hamas and Israel.
Creation, indeed, is risky business.
The thing is that, vastly unlike us, God the Father, Son and Spirit, sees his creation as truly good. How can this be? In the story of the creation of the world, do we assume that God only once saw the world as good, his work that he treasured? Could he not foresee the wreckage that evil ‘s entrance would usher in? When he promised Abraham the land on the other side of the Jordan, was he blind to the reality that it would be his two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, who would begin a bitter war that would stretch even up to now? How could God look at the world we presently live in and call it good?
These questions have led many over the years to assume that the eyes the Lord viewed the world through way back then were purely spiritual. He may well have seen the beginning and he may well have seen the end, but all of this dirty, nasty life we live in and name history is tainted. It is only a shadow of the real thing and I am only a shadow of my real self- what stands in the way is this flesh and blood. A couple of years ago, the Canadian band Arcade Fire put it like this-
My body is a cage that keeps me
From dancing with the one I love
But my mind holds the key.
At the end of the song, a dark, beautiful and sincere prayer, the plea goes out over and over again, set my spirit free.
As beautiful and profound as these lyrics may be though, they do not reflect the story of God and humankind. John, the Gospel writer captures our story best when he writes, The word became flesh. There is no louder word than the incarnation of God, a thunderous, mighty, definitive word that says nothing short of God saw that it was good. The incarnation of Jesus is the verification of the goodness of creation- the proof that God is still in love with the world he made.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer reflected on this thought in a little book called Creation and Fall, when he wrote, God sees the world as good, as created- even where it is the fallen word- and because of the way God sees his work and embraces it and does not forsake it, we live.
I need every ounce of grace to hit the “publish” button because I know my work is incomplete- incapable of reaching the depths I am digging into. But God, the Triune lover of all he has made, does not need this grace for himself.
Maybe that is why he has so much grace to offer us in the Son who became man for us.