I want to add some nuance to the email I wrote last night about ‘being good’.
When I say being good, I’m not talking about self-righteous piety. I’m not even necessarily talking about ‘being nice’ or having ‘good behavior’ (which is entirely subjective, btw). That stuff is all a slippery slope towards the curse of perfection.
Here’s a better way to explain it. (Let me grab my Bible here, one sec…)
There’s a psalm that lays out all the different things and creatures that praise God. What’s curious is how humans are waaaaaay down on that list. It goes…
Sun and moon
Fire and hail
Snow and frost
Mountains and hills
Fruit trees and cedars
Wild animals and cattle
Creeping things and flying birds
(And then) Kings of the earth and all peoples
Yep, we’re at the very bottom of the list of things and creaturelings that ‘praise God’. So, why? What is this psalm writer getting at? This is, as written, the heart of it (from that same psalm)…
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for he commanded and they were created.
He established them forever and ever;
he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
We are created.
Our bounds are fixed.
They cannot be passed.
We can find bondage in this, or freedom. I prefer to go with the latter.
Nature can teach us so much about praising God. The rest of creation (outside of humanity) is simply what God created it to be. The rest of creation does what God created it to do. In merely being itself, it praises the source of its being.
The rest of creation isn’t self-conscious or striving to put on airs of self-righteousness. Cows don’t seem to worry too much about their weight and dogs don’t seem to stress out about improving themselves.
The sun, the moon, the stars, the waters, snow, frost, wind, fire, hail, mountains, and hills are simply what they are: The created manifestation of God in their own specific form.
I don’t think fruit trees have existential crises or anger issues. The rest of nature doesn’t look outside of God for its self-worth.
So what keeps us from this?
Well, if we could rest in our createdness like the rest of creation, it would imply that you nor I am God. You are not the creator and I am not the creator.
The story of Adam and Eve characterized a humanity that was comfortable in its naked createdness until it experienced the inversion of consciousness where it wanted to be in control of judgment. When the individual ego took the wheel and claimed itself to be the final judge of what is good and what is evil.
God said it was good, but the serpent said, try harder.
I know. Being conscious of our limitations as the created isn’t glamorous. It isn’t powerful or motivational in the Western sense. But I’m finding so much liberation in this notion.
Because EVERYTHING is a gift. From my first breath to the breath I’m breathing now — all of them a finite string of gifts. My health, the paved streets outside my apartment, the educators in my daughter’s school, my pastors, my friends who remain my friends even though I’m horrible at keeping in touch, my wife who somehow decided it was a good idea to marry me — all of them and countless more, gifts.
I am the created. I am nothing but a receiver and a transmitter of divine grace. None of it comes from my individual ego.
Of course, I don’t think that the point here is to just sit around and graze like a cow. It takes effort to do that. We humans are moved towards creation. But not in an individualistic sense. It’s when we discard our creator and try to go it alone that things get wonky.
I believe we were created as co-creators of the divine. This is where I think we fit. Securely in the divine trinitarian flow as the created but intimately plugged into the creator. This takes profound trust in the unseen.
And so, as the psalm suggests, maybe the highest form of praise is to, like the rest of creation, relax. Be the created. Rest in that you and I are created good.
Being the created means consciously assuming our divine role.
Trying to be perfect is usurping power from God.
Because if you’re perfect, why do you need God?
Why do you need anyone?
*Makes evil grin*
Relax in the presence of God as you would in the presence of someone who totally digs you. Not your ego ideal. But you. The you who has always been you — created as such.
Christ brings God to us and us to God without any effort on our part.
Rejoice in the gift of your createdness.
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