The newness of life
If you ask most people what they remember about their childhood, you’ll get an array of answers. For some, their strongest memories revolve around family activities such as vacations or holidays. Then there are others who may reminisce over the cultural aspects of their youth. I’m an 80s kid so by default my generation - X - is the best to ever do it. I mean, let’s be real. My generation had the most iconic cartoons, cereals, toys and hip hop fashion. We grew up and made the internet popular. We then gave the world Google just for the extra flex. Shout out to Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
On the other hand, for some people their childhood may solicit memories they wish to forget as even childhood can come with hardships. I think most people can agree their early years can be a mixture of very good and very bad moments. I’m certainly in that camp.
But what I remember most about my own childhood, my strongest memories, chiefly relate to the newness of life. Every experience was so mind-blowingly raw. The earth seemed much larger, brighter and mysterious. All five of my senses were firing at full tilt. Every smell was new and interesting from blades of grass to batteries. Foods I wouldn’t touch today were incredibly irresistible when I was a kid. It was much easier to engage your imagination and be bold. No tree was too high to climb. Even getting sick was an intriguing experience.
I was having a conversation with my wife a few days ago about being sick as a child. She told me her story about how she rarely came down with colds. Her siblings didn’t have such luck. But since she rarely got sick, she would try to hang around them as much as she could. Drinking out of their cups and eating off of their utensils in an attempt to catch their cold. Why? Because she wanted to experience what being sick was like. Today there isn’t an adult on the planet that would willingly offer to catch anybody’s sickness for any reason. In those days the line between good and bad experiences could be easily blurred because so much was new.
Crumbling of fantasies
All of this changes as the years go on. We become numb to life’s experiences. The proverbial shiny wears off. What’s new becomes old. What was once exciting is now dull and boring. Our minds are no longer blown away by the fact we’re all living on a spinning rock floating in seemingly infinite space. The size of the earth shrinks. Our tastebuds crave for something we’ve never had before. And our hearts continually desire access to new experiences. The idea of satisfaction becomes illusory. We’re always chasing. Chasing something new. Bigger, better, more satisfying. Only to eventually be left bored once again. We do everything we can to preserve that new car smell in life. Solomon summarizes all of this in Ecclesiastes with one line:
8 All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. - Ecclesiastes 1:8 (ESV)
It’s an odd thing isn’t it? How something once so amazing can become such a bore due to the repetitions of life. In fact, even as a child we begin to learn that too much of a good thing can actually be bad; like attempting to eat a one pound pack of Oreo cookies over the course of a day. Yes, I did this. Won’t do it again and do not advise.
However, we soon find out through life’s ups and downs that boredom becomes the least of our worries. A place that used to be one big adventure whose inner workings had to be fueled by magic starts to appear broken. There’s a weird transition that happens in life - at least there was for me - where I learned the world was always broken. I began to realize the fantasy I was living in just happened to be inside of my own mind. Time on earth slowly changed my perception of earth. I started seeing things for what they truly were.
At some point life starts throwing real curve balls. Illnesses are no longer something you want to catch for curiosity sake. Depression introduces itself for the first time and refuses to end its relationship with you. Friends and loved ones pass away. You learn natural disasters are a natural part of life. And you realize human beings can, and do suck. Badly at times. The things that we as humans do to each other can be unconscionable. But it’s not just us either. The animal kingdom is also juiced up on the same deadly, toxic caffeine that’s made its way into the waters. In short, life can be very brutal.
In my early years as a Believer I often contended with the idea of God existing in some great, perfect, heavenly place. Meanwhile humans are on earth suffering. And not just suffering, but suffering in a world He created. And then for some religious comedic effect, we’re told to pray to this very same God to make Him aware of our suffering. As if He doesn’t already know. Many Believers wrestle with this dilemma today. For atheists this is a popular sticking point. I’ve had countless debates with those who reject God, asking me if God was real then why is He on a smoke break? If God loves humans then why is He watching us suffer while doing nothing about it? They’ve got a point. The questions and doubt have some validity. And there’s much to be said concerning the topic of God and the existence of evil. It’s been such a divisive issue I produced a podcast on the subject years ago.
But today I want to leave you with a small gem to ease your mind on this topic. I’d like for you to see that if you are struggling with this issue, you too might be creating a fantasy in your own mind. And fantasies lead to unrealistic and irrational expectations when you’re living in reality. This can also lead to a mischaracterization of God. So, let’s try to sort this out.
Genesis. There’s a reason why this book is truly one of my favorite, and most thrilling books in the Bible. Yet, I also believe it’s one of the most overlooked and undervalued books in the Bible. While the story is chock-full of supernatural feats, divine beings, hatred and aggression, it’s also easy to walk away with the idea that the first few chapters are just about creation. But that’s a very simplistic view of what took place. It’s a view that completely misses the character and nature of God. And this oversight can unfortunately lead to the mischaracterization of God. If our only take away is that God created, we'll see Him as nothing more than a helicopter parent. We'll begin to think we’re owed God’s constant intervention in our lives as long as it’s in areas that we approve. We'll lift our voices and raise our fists demanding if God is real, or if He cares, to show Himself. Get off the smoke break! If you mix this perspective of God with our general nature to never be satisfied, you’re left with a God who either doesn’t care or is completely inept. But neither are true of God.
It was good
During the creation event there were two major things that took place.
Stay sharp because this is important.
The first, God spoke things into existence. He created. The second, after each day - except Day 2 - scripture makes a statement for all creation to know; And God saw that it was good. So God created and then documented that His work was good.
I want you to let this sink in for a minute. Don’t be too quick to blow past this or become over confident in the fact you’re aware of this part of scripture. Instead, ask yourself why this information exists to begin with. There’s a reason we are told repeatedly that God’s work was good. If we think about this rationally, this information isn’t logistically necessary to tell the story of creation. It could have been left out. So why is it included? We all know God is good and perfect and holy and righteous. Is it possible for Him to create anything that isn’t good? No it is not possible. So why does scripture go the extra mile to tell us God’s work was good?
“And God saw that it was good”.
I believe this information was included not to speak to God’s goodness or ability. Instead, it exists to remind humanity of what He originally created for us. Scripture breaks down creation by the day. Each day consists of specific tasks God set out to complete in order to fulfill His work. What we have is akin to a baker, who lists out all of the ingredients for the perfect cake He is baking. Each ingredient, being good and fit for the recipe. The end goal? To deliver a finalized product for all to enjoy. God’s intent was to deliver a good world that we could all enjoy.
And make no mistake. God did create a good world. The very thing we all crave and wish we could have, God gave that to humanity. God absolutely loves His creation and it often saddens me that our hearts possess the propensity to rail against, blame, or question God because life is not perfect. The truth is, it wasn’t possible for God to create anything that was less than perfect. He couldn’t do that if He wanted to as it would go against His nature. The reason why we suffer isn’t because of God’s absence or lack of caring. In fact His presence is the reason why we can still enjoy good things in such an imperfect world. The fallenness of the world isn’t on God. The world is the way it is because humanity - you and I - have the ability to exercise our rejection of God. God delivered a perfect Garden and Adam and Eve rebelled against Him, rejecting His gift as they reached for more. They were not satisfied. You and I do the same every day.
“And God saw that it was good”. Despite our rebellion God still sustains all of creation and allows us to enjoy it with all of its pain and suffering. But we are able to enjoy just enough to recognize the world is in fact, broken. And this brokenness propels our hearts to yearn for what God originally created for us.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus fully exposes the heart of God and how He feels about His children who love Him.
8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! - Matthew 7:8–11 (ESV)
God has always been about the business of giving humanity good gifts. The creation story drives this point home. If you’re wrestling with the fact we live in a broken world, know that God didn’t create such a place. The thing we all desire from Him - a perfect world - He created for us. The end result is we rejected it and now live with the consequences.
“And God saw that it was good”.