One of the most exiting things for me in the past year has been that Jon and I have both been excited by and interested in some new (for us) thinking, particularly around the issues of sustainable food (mostly thanks to Michael Pollan) and the emerging church movement (mostly thanks to Rob Bell and Brian McLaren). We’ve been reading books passed back and forth, and talking about new ideas, and bouncing thoughts off of each other, and it’s just been really fun. Maybe that’s one of the cool things about getting to live with my best friend: we can geek out over the same things.
All of this to say that I’ve been reading Brian McLaren’s The Story We Find Ourselves In. It’s the sequel to his book A New Kind of Christian and I highly recommend both. They’re sort of fictionalized dialogues between characters, and through their conversations, McLaren introduces a whole lot of just mind-blowing stuff. I just wanted to share one small snippet that struck me while I was reading yesterday, made me wonder why I’d never thought of it before.
There’s one other surprising thing that the second creation story in Genesis suggests to me. It’s something shocking, maybe put best when it’s put in a way that borders on heresy: God is not enough, the story says. That has nothing to do with any deficiency in God; it has to do with the storyline God had in mind for us. God doesn’t want to be the only reality in our lives, the only relationship in our network, the only message on our screen…This is the story we find ourselves in, isn’t it? Caught between two dangers: a hyperspiritual danger that says ‘It is good enough for human beings to be alone, so all they need is God,’ and a hypersecular danger that says, ‘It is good enough for human beings to be with the other created beings; forget about the Supreme Being from whom all being and blessing flow.’ Neither of those options is good enough. The only viable option in our story is for us human beings to enjoy the company both of our Creator and of our fellow creatures: our brother sun and sister moon, our brother fox and sister fruit bat, and especially of our mates–either sexual mates or mates in the Australian sense of the term, our friends–in whom we find a lost part of ourselves restored to us again.
I’ve heard well-meaning people, even myself, say things like “God is all I need.” But even in Eden, God saw that there was something “not good” in paradise, something that needed fixing: the human being was alone. The human being NEEDED more than just God and nature. The human being needed companionship. And God creates a companion, and then everything is good.
Which brings me to something else the book pointed out that I hadn’t noticed before. This is what my ESV Bible says in Genesis 1:26:
Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’
I checked the other versions/translations I found around the house, and here’s what they say.
Then God Said, ‘Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness.’
God spoke: ‘Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature.’
Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.’
Do you see what I noticed? It’s plural! Us! Our! I don’t think this is just because the King is fond of the royal ‘we.’ It’s because of that crazy thing theologians are always describing in language like “the peripatetic dance of the trinity” or as I paraphrase from Rob Bell, “the community of self-giving love at the center of the universe” or as it’s always said in the hymns of my childhood, “the perfect three-in-one.” God exists in a mystical relationship to Godself which we try to describe in the language of the trinity. God is by nature relational and communal, even when just in relationship to Godself. And so, human beings, created in the image of them, of their image, of that three-in-one, well, we’re created to need relationship too, and not just relationship to God (that God shaped hole we’ve heard so much about), but relationship to each other and to creation too.
Which, all of this may not be news to you, and it may not seem very radical, but here’s my thought: how would the world look different if we actually acted like we not only love our neighbor, but actually factually NEED them to be whole? How would we act differently toward creation if we felt that not only do we “have dominion over” or “responsibility for” it, but actually factually needed a relationship to it to be whole?