Monday, October 29, 2012

first gift

When I was a child, had this feeling that inanimate objects were often conscious, with feelings and such. I realized most adults would scoff at the idea, but I figured it was still best to act accordingly. This fact explains the bright green and orange canvas shoes I told my parents to buy, since I figured they were so ugly no one else would want them. It also explains a habit I had when coloring. I recall, on more than one occasion, coloring things in a certain order. I "brought to life" all the background of coloring book pictures before finally coloring the main subject's body. Last of all, I colored his eyes, so he could be presented with the glorious sight all at once. I had colored his world! I was presenting him with the most amazing gift he had ever seen.

Our family has worked all summer to try to make something beautiful out of the chaotic property we inherited when we purchased the lot adjacent to our house. We've worked to turn a gravel drive used to work on cars (complete with various odd parts left from previous owners) into a beautiful garden with a hill (which takes serious effort when you live in a midwestern town) and a stream flowing through it. We want to be able to have a place to rest and enjoy. We want our young children to be able to roam through it, eat the food from it, play in it, work in it, and enjoy it with us. It's like our own messy microcosm of The Garden.

This fact is what immediately came to mind on a recent study of the creation story in Genesis. God took all this time and effort to make a beautiful place for us out of the chaos. He made skies, lands, desserts, mountains, plains, and all the plants and animals that occupy them. He planted a beautiful garden with rivers flowing through it. He got everything just right and then placed us there. He wanted us to be able roam through it, eat the food from it, play in it, work in it, and enjoy it with Him. It was a place to rest from His work and enjoy creation with us.

As humans do, we thought we could figure out the best use of the gift on our own. We broke the garden. (This fact is not lost on my daughter, who is human and likes to dismantle our stream bed in her effort to make the rocks lining it "clean." Even more parallel, she likes to pick all the apples we specifically tell her not to pick...yet.) Would that we would have instead consulted Him! But God had given us all this beauty to do with as we pleased, whether it pleased Him or not. He enjoyed all He had done, happy to have presented His children with this wonderful gift.


Though small and cute in comparison, these are the ways I have of relating to how God might have felt at creation. As a child and now as an adult, there are things I've made to present to someone else that are deeply meaningful to me. Maybe you have those sorts of things, too. We spend a our time and resources making something that tells of who we are and we give it to or enjoy it with someone else. We anticipate their response because we know we're presenting them with a good gift. But God's first gift is not very much like those things, firstly due to issues of scale. The world is vast; things we make generally are not. God's first gift to us is also different in kind. The things we make are not original; they are rearrangements or combinations of other things we have or found. But God made living things along with everything needed for their sustenance and ours.

I recently took a break from making my own small
curving stream to enjoy one a little more majestic. 

Because of these great differences in kind and scale of the masterpiece presented, reverent reflection is required. The stakes involved in this gift receiving are much higher. We may rightfully be in awe if VanGogh had presented us with one of his paintings, but a much more serious, joyful, and awe-filled response is required with the presentation of an entire working planet (or even just our corner of it) along with its other inhabitants. What is an appropriate response from us, God's children, upon being presented with this gift and its requisite responsibility?

There is, perhaps, an array of potential responses to such an extravagant gift. Like my three-year-old, we can respond by dismantling in an effort to help it conform to our idea of "good." As the crowning work on our page of the coloring book, we could remain speechless about the matter. Or we could mutter a quick "Thanks," before tearing through our page in a rush to get to what lies beneath. We could spend time talking about it with God. We could accept the invitation to enjoy and extend the invitation to others. We could spend some time in awe. We could stand forever in fear and trembling. Someone just colored our eyes. How, then, shall we live?