Very Good

A year ago today, I dragged a handful friends into my biggest scheme yet.

They drove three or seven hours, put off an afternoon of senior projects for some pallet carpentry, and hid out in a cold parking deck for an hour all because I had a big idea.

That night, on top of an empty campus parking deck, in the same spot overlooking campus where Hollie and I meandered to on dozens of walks, I asked the best person I knew to spend the rest of her life with me.

Genesis is an interesting book in the bible to me. In my bible, the first chapter is named “The Creation of the World.” It’s a bold statement and something that seems like it deserves my attention. According to this story, God made the world and some of the things we recognize in it over the course of a few days. He created the heavens and the earth, and then created light. He then created the sky, and the next day land to separate water from water. And verse ten ends with, “And God saw that it was good.”

The next days he created the grasslands and forests, then the stars, sun, and moon. And he followed that by filling the skies with birds, seas with fish and whales and other creatures, and on the fifth day, he unleashed the beasts of the earth on land, the livestock, and all the creeping things. And verse twenty-five ends with, “And God saw that it was good.”

He did all this in the first chapter. At the end of chapter one he introduces man – “male and female he created them.” He charged man to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth, and have dominion over the fish and the birds and everything that moves on earth.

For some reason, God put it in the minds of the early writers to go back and give us a little more detail about our beginnings. In chapter two, the author explains how God formed man from dust and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life to become a living creature, so he might work the earth. God took his fifth day creation by the hand, and put him in a garden. I imagine God took man to a high mountain and gave him the lay of the land – pointing out the rivers and where to find gold, the way a father might show his son the land below on his first hiking trip. I believe God did this with great satisfaction – but then turned to look the man he had created and named Adam, and he saw that there was something missing.

I imagine ridiculous scene for the story God shares next. In search of a helper for Adam – God had said, “It is not good that the man should be alone,” God brought every beast of the earth and bird of the sky and brought each of them to Adam. Presumably in a single file line. And whatever sounds Adam made upon receiving the beast or bird, “that was its name.” And after what probably was a very long day, or Adam ran out of sounds, they found there was no helper fit for him.

Neither the dog – man’s best friend, or lions or dinosaurs or whatever walked the earth in that day were what was needed to be man’s companion. So God put Adam in a deep sleep and took one of his ribs – and from that rib, created a woman.

This is interesting. It’s interesting that God created. I imagine that God didn’t need to create anything at all. He’s God, afterall. But as an architect of stories and master painter, God created the mountains and oceans, and fish, birds, and animals. And then he created man – supposedly as his crowning creation, to rule over all of this. To climb the mountains and sail the seas, use subdue pigeons to carry mail and domesticate the stallion into a means of movement. It sounds adventurous.

And yet, man was alone without a helper, and God declared that was not good. It seems like the plan God had in mind for man wasn’t necessarily to climb mountains and sail the seven seas, or spend all the hours of light chasing fish. Because he had all of this, and while it was not bad, it wasn’t good enough.

So from a rib of Adam, God made Eve. God made Adam incomplete to form his helper.

Ask a guy his passion and you might find that he has a heart for adventure, for competition, music, or work. Ask a married man the people he loves most and who frustrates him most, you may get the same person for an answer. Marriage has a way of revealing selfishness within our own hearts that masquerades as the faults of our others. And often just before I am able to connect the selfishness in my heart to the broken lens I am viewing my wife with, I have this urge to return to all the not-bad-but-not-good-enough things God created before woman: wilderness or work or some other passing passion. Without being able to chase them, at times I feel incomplete. These are things I could put my heart fully into if I had not already given it to someone else. All these are things God had created and wove into the fabric of the earth and yet found his artwork incomplete. But God created woman from man’s rib – in the process making man incomplete (and I’m sure very aware of this scar and void). After God created a woman to join man, and charged them to be fruitful and multiply, have dominion over earth together, Genesis chapter one ends with verse thirty-one: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”

Adam may have been complete before Eve. But together, they were better. They were very good.


Tour Guides

Last week, I lead a few tours as a part of the grand opening for a new apartment building the company I work for had just built. Even though the new building wasn’t a project that I worked on, after a walkthrough with the team who spent the better part of their last three years making the building a reality, I was back in a familiar element.

I was a tour guide at the college I went to. So twice a week, and the occasional Friday visit day, I spent an hour or two of my day walking around campus with one or ten prospective students and their parents who were considering the school that I went to as their future home for the next four years.

The admissions office had it down to a science. The tour routes were exact, guides strategically selected (no electrical engineers escorting potential nursing majors around campus), and the script highlighted all the great things about our school and was wordsmithed to make the imperfect appear palatable and unimportant. But even with all the systems in place, there was a prevailing rule to make a tour great: get off-script.

We learned quickly that a twenty three-to-one student-faculty ratio would quickly be forgotten by the “prospies.” But they would probably remember that Bradley was a school with small classes and individual attention if I told them about the time my senior year I fell asleep in my class of twelve students. There’s no hiding when you’re sitting in a circle discussing the book you didn’t read. (Pro tip: Falling asleep isn’t a good way to avoid being called on.) Generic statements about cool school sponsored events didn’t register like when I would point to the grassy knoll next to my old dorm, and talk about the time when one of the RA’s bought a roll of plastic and a bucket’s worth of cheap soap and invited all the floors out for a slip ‘n slide when the sprinklers turned on at midnight during my freshman year.

Our jobs were to convince prospective students that this campus was a place that they could call their school and their home. And while we had an arsenal of facts programmed into our head (“A top five school in the region according to US News: Best Colleges!!! And the four schools ahead of us probably don’t even have your major. Or this cool statue that spells out Bradley if you spin in a circle three times and look at it upside down.”), the thing the admissions office expected to close the deal were our own stories.

I think that’s how God wanted us to share his story with our neighbors. He gave us a book that we sometimes confuse as a script (“Hey! Read these sentences in Romans. Now you’re a Christian! High five/side hug!”), rather than remembering that it’s a compilation of stories and changed lives.

Jesus was a tour guide who walked around the earth and told John, Peter, Thomas, and the other disciples how his father was working in his life and shaping who he was. And then he invited them to walk with him. And they lived and learned, and in turn walked through life with others, sharing their experiences with people who became names we recognize like Paul and Timothy. And they shared their hardest times and proudest moments with others that that led to others that led to you and me.

It’s not that we need to skip the script. We absolutely need to know the script and know it well.  But the script itself was inspired by stories, and we need to bring it back to those roots. It’s easy to fall back on just the script: the facts and the life verses that have guided us through hard times when we’re sharing with someone for the first or tenth time. But maybe we were meant to let them see deeply into that hard time, and see how that verse was the only thing that we could hold on to in those days because everything else we had held on to had fallen apart. Even if that hard time is happening right now.

That’s what Jesus did, teaching from the script but also inviting people to walk with him from town to town and day to day. And that changed lives.