To say that Rabbi Irwin Kula has become an influence in my life would be an understatement. I have been tutored by this rabbi through his book, Yearnings: Ancient Wisdom for Daily Life – Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life. Rabbi Kula, in his chapter on Inspiration and Illumination shares insight about the first story of creation, found in Genesis 1:1 – 2:4a. Of this story, he says,
The world began with an act of supreme creativity. Something was made out of nothing, and life began its glorious unfolding. There’s such a wonderful order to it all: each day yielding a new form of life; every day seeming to reach such a satisfying conclusion; then humankind created “in the image of the Creator.” … How marvelous to imagine that humankind was made in the image of an artistic genius worthy of being named the Creator, God, or all that is. St. Thomas Aquinas called God “Artist of Artists.” … The world was left unfinished so that humans could have a part in creation. (Yearnings, pp. 183-184)
As I read and reflected on this, something significant hit me about the opening stories of Genesis. The section of the Bible generally known as the primeval story is contained in Genesis 1-11, and they start with this beautiful story of creation and then end with the unfolding of the judgment on the people who built the tower commonly known as the Tower of Babel. What interests me here is that the opening story, as Rabbi Kula so well describes it, is a story where people are invited into the creative process. It is godlike for us to engage in the creative process and thereby reflect our creator as we engage in the very act of creation.
But the conclusion of the primeval story ends with humans wishing to engage in a different creative process. Combined with our yearning to share in this creative process is the longing to “make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:4). Then further mix it with the judgment that befalls the man and the woman described in the second creation story (starting in Genesis 2:4b) because they longed to “be like God,” and we have an interesting story that unfolds.
What interests me here is that we are people who are invited into the creative process, yet we suffer from this tendency to lose our way in the partnership. We want to go it alone … to make a name for ourselves … to cut God out of the deal because, quite frankly, we are pretty sure we can do it better ourselves.
As I reflect upon my life, I think I see the truth in this. I am a native Texan, and with that comes a bit of an attitude and a belief that I can actually pull myself up by my own bootstraps. An image that brings a smile, if you think about it a minute. There are times in my life when I have acted impulsively. I have acted according to my own interests and pretended that it was for the good of others … the church … the community … the world. There are times when I have acted out of fear … as though I might be forgotten, or worse, irrelevant … if I didn’t take decisive action myself.
In the opening story of creation, we are invited to be co-creators with God … those who tend the creation that God provided. But we are prone to distrust, and we give up on the partnership. Then it all falls apart.
So where does this lead us? Ultimately, this becomes for me another facet of my central theme: “Let go and let God.” It doesn’t mean that I am passive and simply sit by letting God do all the work. It does mean that I am actively engaged in helping create a world like God intended it to be. I seek to create a world where justice is the norm. I seek a world where, as we at Wellspring put it, all are welcome and all are accepted! I want a world that is a reflection of our expansive creation born of an ever-expanding, all-consuming God. That means that I want a world where there is no “us versus them” thinking and where we all seek a common unity born amidst our diversity and inclusivity.
But that doesn’t happen without trust. I have said before that there is a difference between what we consider belief and what we consider faith. Belief is, for many of us, an effort to get our heads around something … to give acclamation to a principle or person or deity. We tend to associate belief with an act of ascent.
Faith, on the other hand, is about trust. It means that I am fully incapable of getting my head around who God is, but I am confident that God can get God’s arms around me. It is that notion that, no matter what I face, God’s got this. When I then move through life and ministry with that kind of trust, I am available for reflection, reproof and appropriate change. It is this faith that has led me to a greater level of inclusiveness and given me a voice on such matters when I previously had a far softer voice.
Today I received an email from a reader. Someone who has been cut off from the church … by the church. She had read my blog titled “Feeling Unmoored,” and described how her life felt unmoored after having been cut off from the church because of who God created her to be. It was then that my reading of both an email and an incredible book came together for me. I am called to partner with God in creating a world where people like this child of God are given a place among the people of God.
So you are invited. You are invited to be partners with God as we seek a world like the one described in the opening passages of Genesis. You are invited to create a world that the creator, the “Artist of Artists” might well call very good!