Creation and Kisses
As a storyteller, I am acutely aware of the importance of a good beginning. If you don’t start your story off with a bang you’re in big trouble because more than likely your audience is not going to have the patience to stick with you. There is also a level of trust implicit in all beginnings, and it is up to the author to create that bond of trust with his audience. Look at it as a kind of non-verbal contract where you are promising your reader that 1) you know what you’re doing; and, 2) you’re about to take them on a fun ride.
I have always been fascinated with the book of Genesis, simply because there are so many “firsts” there, and it’s also chock full of amazing stories and characters. God is establishing the scene for us, but He’s also jumping right out of the gate with stories that are gripping and exciting.
If all great stories need to start off with a bang, God, as usual, shows all of us mere mortals how it’s supposed to be done. Like a seasoned rocker who wants to show all the upstarts what real rock n’ roll sounds like, He starts His story with the biggest bang imaginable. The Big Bang. Literally. He speaks and BANG, the creation of the Universe. The fact that the Universe is constantly expanding at an ever increasing rate of speed not only defies the laws of physics, but is a testament to the fact that God’s voice from the very beginning continues to echo through space and time, and it carries a very big stick. As for the increase in speed? I’m no physicist, but from the looks of things I think we can fairly safely say that when God says something, it not only gets things done, but it also carries a little something called momentum. So don’t be surprised when God works through you and it continues to grow bigger and more wonderful and sometimes faster than you ever dreamed. It’s just God’s momentum. He’s like a steam train picking up speed, and He’s unstoppable. This aspect of His character is built in to the very fabric of the Universe.
So God decides to begin His story with the creation of the world. Not a bad start. But when we take a closer look at some of the “firsts” of His book, they are both descriptive and revealing of the nature and character of God.
A Creative God
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” – Genesis 1:1
Understand, this is the first line from God to humanity, the first thing He’s going to reveal of Himself to the world. So we can assume that He put a lot of thought into this–His introduction. I find it fascinating that the first thing He decides to tell us about Himself is NOT that He is a God of love. Or covenant. Or goodness. Or forgiveness. Or patience. Or grace. All of that is soon to come, and in fact, the rest of the book takes great pains to show us those aspects of Himself in detail. But for some reason, the first thing God wants us to know about Him is that He’s…creative.
Created. It’s the fifth word in the Bible, and the first word of any real substance (aside from God’s name, of course). This is the opening shot across the storytelling bow, and right off the bat God keeps us on our toes by focusing on an aspect of Himself that is often overlooked on Sunday mornings. God is creative. In fact, God is creativity itself. Why does He start His book with this? The answer, I believe, goes to the very heart of His hopes for us as individuals, as well as His collective Body.
As we will see throughout God’s book, He is wildly creative in the ways He goes about His business. In the person of Jesus, we see this creativity constantly in action. He’s always taking people by surprise, always using creative stories to illustrate His point, and He rarely heals anyone the same way twice. One blind man gets spit on, another is simply told he’s healed. We often try to take these creative acts and turn them into formulas for healing and ministry. I understand the concept–if this is the way Jesus did stuff, then how can you go wrong by copying the master? (I’m still waiting to hear about a “spit ministry” though) The problem, though, is that if God is creativity incarnate, then by His very nature He cannot be placed into a formula. There is no 5-step program to getting God to show up or listen to you. He’s not a caged animal to be brought out by the beating of drums or the playing of flutes. He’s a wild lion here, a meek and quiet lamb there. He’s an eagle one time, a gazelle the next. By showing us at the very start that He is creative, God is trying to tell us that He cannot be put in a box.
But of course, the church has been trying to do just that for quite some time now.
A God in a box is much easier to deal with than one who is wild and unchained. We can understand a captive God, and most importantly, we can CONTROL Him. But God cannot and will not be caged, controlled, or boxed in. We can try all we want, but as soon as we do, God, in essence, high tails it out of there. He wants no part of captivity. So we continue with our rituals, continue with our formulaic Christianity, all the while thinking that God is pleased with us; that He is just loving the fact that we are the chosen ones and we understand Him and are putting on such a fine show for Him. Unfortunately, we’re usually the last ones to realize that God left the building a long time ago.
When you remove the ability for God to be creative in the church, you are left with religion. Religion in its most grotesque form is a system built upon principles, rules, and empty theology, but the heart has been ripped out. It’s like zombie church. We’re walking around, interacting with people, doing “churchy” things, but we’re stiff and stale and not particularly pleasing to others. In fact, most people run from us when we’re doing zombie church. Zombie churches don’t attract people, they simply live to survive.
We know it is possible to “do church” without heart, as the writer of Revelation admonishes the church in Revelation 2:3-4, “You have persevered and have endured many hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen!” Here God is saying, in no uncertain terms, that no matter how good your intentions are, no matter how much you endure and how hard you work for the kingdom, if you don’t operate the way He wants you to operate (ie, abounding in Love) then He’s actually going to hold that against you!
Then, of course, we have the famous admonition to the church in Leodicea in Rev 3:14-22. This is where God tells us that if we’re lukewarm He will spit us out of His mouth. You only spit stuff out that you don’t want to be a part of you anymore. God doesn’t sugarcoat it—if you try to peg Him as being this way and only this way, and if you’re more interested in playing church than you are in Him and His kids, then He’s going to have to move on from you (not personally, but corporately). You have probably heard of the term “a dead church”. This (a church focused on activity over relationship) is one of the main reasons for that deadness. As the lead singer of U2, Bono, once said, “Religion is what’s left when the spirit leaves the building.”
The Breath of God
“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” – Genesis 2:7
Returning to our Story, as God is creating the world, He does so by simply speaking things into existence. When God speaks, His words become law. Nothing in the Universe can undo His word because the entire Universe was created by His word, which makes it subject to His word. But when it comes time to create man, oddly enough God takes a different approach. Instead of simply saying, “Let there be man,” which seems logical given His track record of creation up to this point, He now gets on His hands and knees and scoops up a pile of dirt and forms man as a potter would from clay. It is as if God is intentionally telling us that even amidst the glories of His Universe, we are the thing He took the most time with, and therefore we are His prized possessions.
What happens next, though, changes the whole game. As I just mentioned, up until now God is speaking things into existence. It would make sense, then, that after creating Adam, He would simply speak the word, “Live,” and Adam would begin breathing. Again, Adam’s body would have had to obey God’s command, and His heart would have started beating and his brain would have started functioning. But God apparently had something else in mind with this creation of His, and I think He also wanted to show us His overall intentions right from the start.
Genesis tells us that God “breathed the breath of life” into Adam. In essence, He breathed part of Himself into us, and at this point, remember, the only thing we know about Him is that He is creative. This means that if you are breathing right now, you too are a creative being. Don’t forget, this is one of the major things that separates us from the animals.
But even more profound than Him breathing Himself into us is the mere fact that He chose to breathe anything into us at all. Think about it: what is the only way you can breathe your breath into someone? Your lips must touch their lips.
God’s first act towards man was a kiss.
Lest there be any mistaking God’s intentions with us, lest we forget that the thing He desires above all else with us is relationship, we must only look at this first act that is loaded with symbolism. If it isn’t enough that He would get His hands dirty shaping us into existence, that He would then stoop to our level and place His pure, holy lips upon ours so that we might have a piece of Him inside of us, whether we believe in Him or not, is heartbreakingly beautiful.
But it doesn’t stop there.
“God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” – Genesis 1:28
Next we see God’s first words to man. This is it, the moment of truth. I can just see Adam and Eve standing there, naked, holding hands as their Creator settles in to speak to them for the first time. The nervous energy crackling in the air–the aroma of God’s love pouring over them. What was He going to say? What was He going to do?
“Be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth.”
The first sentence to man. On the surface, it may seem like a letdown. That’s it? A weird, vague command? Yet in reality, this statement is dripping with meaning.
God is far too intelligent to overlook even the tiniest detail, and we can therefore assume that the order of His words carries a message as well. I don’t think it was by random chance that He chose to say “Be fruitful” first, followed by “multiply and subdue” next. I think God understood all too well the people He had just created. We would get the second and third parts of His first sentence quite well, thank you very much. Sex and power. We’re on it, Captain. Those are orders we can happily follow.
But “be fruitful”? I think He may have said that first because it was dearest to His heart for us. While we as a race may care most about sex and power, He cares most about our fruitfulness; our sense of meaning in the world. He wants us to strive for excellence, to use our time well, to be intentional with our gifts, not so much for His and His kingdom’s sake, but for our sake! What we do on this earth means something to Him. It should therefore mean something to us as well.
But God is not done teaching us through His interactions with Adam, not by a long shot, because what comes next takes that whole notion of fruitfulness and gives it an injection of righteous steroids.
Time To Go To Work
“Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.” – Genesis 2:19
God has created man, He has breathed life into him, and that life carries the essence of His creativity. So it is only natural for God to then want to take His new creation out for a test drive. Which brings about the first job given to man. Give all the animals on earth a name.
Man’s first assignment is a creative one. God is showing all of us that we are not created primarily to plow the fields or build shelters or tend the flocks, nor are we even created primarily to do His bidding. We are free agents right from the start, and He hands us the wheel of His new creation and tells us to take it for a spin. He passes the creative buck of naming all the animals onto us. This shows both God’s immense humility as well as His trust in our abilities.
But He ups the ante again with Genesis 2:19, when “He brought all the animals to Adam to see what he would name them, and whatever he named them, that was its name.”
The implications here are profound. For one, our words carry weight with God. He pays attention to what we say and what we proclaim. It’s why Jesus tells us in James 3:2 that a man who can tame his tongue is perfect. Our mouths are our biggest asset as well as our greatest enemy. We can bless or curse, and the reason for that is because God cares about what we say and He has given us an amazing and dangerous authority over His creation and each other (more on that later).
But even more than that is the statement, “to see what he would name them.” You can just see Him leaning forward, curiosity piqued, a smile spreading across His face as Adam takes a deep breath and dives in. But it also implies something that should free us all up in our quest for fruitfulness. God is showing here that He is interested in what Adam is about to do.
Which means that He derived pleasure from Adam’s creative act.
Which means that He derives pleasure from our creative acts.
Which makes our creative acts…worship.
“God walked with them in the cool of the day.” – Genesis 3:8
Maybe it’s the strange way my brain works, but to me, this is one of the coolest sentences in the Bible. I’m not sure how important it is in the grand scheme of things, but then again, this book is about uncovering some of the smaller details peppered throughout the Bible that reveal aspects of God’s character, and this one is a perfect example.
First, the obvious. Not until Jesus shows up on the scene will God again so openly and brazenly walk on the earth in our midst. Who knows if He still does it on his own, out in the wild somewhere, just for old time’s sake. But it’s probably best for us not to conjecture too much on that and turn God into some kind of holy Sasquatch. No, I’m more interested in what this says about God’s character and the kind of relationship He desires with us.
We all know that the pre-fall Garden of Eden was the way God had INTENDED His creation to be. No death, apparently (meaning no steak–a serious flaw in the system if you ask me), and this curious little admission on God’s part. He used to walk with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. The God of the Universe took human form and came down to just hang out with Adam and Eve. Who knows what kinds of conversations they had. Maybe He was teaching them biology. About the cosmos. Algebra. The way His world works. Maybe He had to explain the birds and the bees to them. Maybe He just listened to them. Maybe He told them jokes.
I have to stop here and tell you a story. If you’ve seen my film, Father of Lights, you’ve met my friend Ravi, who has one of the most unique gifts I’ve ever encountered. He hears the audible voice of God everyday. I mean it, audible. He wakes up and God tells Him who he’s going to meet that day and what he’s supposed to say to them. Sometimes He gives Ravi GPS turn-by-turn directions somewhere to save a lost or kidnapped child. Ravi has a million stories of crazy stuff God has asked him to do, but this particular story bears retelling because it shows exactly why God gave Ravi this gift and not someone as simple minded and moronic as me.
I was filming with Ravi in India for Father of Lights, and we were driving somewhere–I don’t remember the particulars. But Ravi is my friend, so I feel comfortable enough with him to ask him stupid questions all the time. I mean, how many people am I going to meet who have audible conversations with God everyday? So, my mind going to its usual strange place, I asked him…
“Hey Ravi, is God like, super serious all the time?”
“Well, He’s very funny, but when He’s talking business, He’s all business.”
“He ever told you a joke?”
Ravi laughed. I’m pretty sure no one had ever asked him that one before.
“You should ask God to tell you a joke.”
Ravi laughed some more.
“I’m serious! Can you imagine what a joke from God would be like? It would have to be the funniest joke in the history of the world!”
Ravi continued laughing. Then he thought for a moment.
“You know what, I think I will ask Him to tell me a joke.”
“Yes. I will ask Him the next time we talk.”
At this point, I’m feeling quite pleased with myself. And secretly, I can’t wait to hear this joke. Of course, I’m not expecting God to ACTUALLY tell Ravi a joke, but even the thought of him asking God for a joke strikes me as hilarious.
A few days go by and, if you’ve seen my movie Father of Lights, you know, a lot of crazy stuff goes down. Towards the end of our time together I asked Ravi if he’s asked God for that joke yet. He tells me he keeps forgetting. Every time God talks to him it’s all business. It’s enough for Ravi to simply try to remember everything God is telling him.
So I head back home to Chicago, and every few days I email Ravi to see if he’s asked God for a joke. He keeps telling me no, he hasn’t had the chance to bring it up. I get busy with life again, and a few weeks go by. I finally remember that I haven’t asked Ravi in a while about the joke, so I message him again. This time he tells me that actually, yes, he did ask God for a joke.
He told Ravi one.
Ravi isn’t going to tell me the joke.
I could have punched my computer screen. I begged, I pleaded, but to no avail. Ravi refused to tell me the joke.
I asked him if it was at least funny.
He said yes…kind of.
At this point, my curiosity is piqued to the boiling point, and I will never let this die until I find out what that joke was. So our good mutual friend, Will Hart (who I filmed with in Furious Love), told me a few months later that he was heading over to India to see Ravi. I told him the story and instructed him that he HAD to get Ravi to tell him the joke. He promised to get it out of him (he’s known Ravi much longer than me).
When Will returned, I called him immediately to find out about the joke.
“Wilson, he’s not going to tell you that joke.”
“I don’t know, but he wouldn’t even tell me. I have no idea what his problem is.”
More months go by, and Ravi comes to visit me in Chicago. Now I’ve got him cornered. I’m like a rabid dog, hell bent on prying this stupid joke out of my friend. It’s no longer simple curiosity driving me, but raving madness.
“Ravi, you have to tell me the joke.”
“I cannot tell you the joke, sir.”
“But it’s my joke! You wouldn’t have even asked for it if I hadn’t told you to. If anyone on earth deserves to hear this joke, it’s me!”
And that’s when I start to get an inkling as to why he won’t tell this to me.
“Well,” Ravi starts to say, a little warily, “I asked Him, and He kind of laughed…”
“Well, it was kind of a giggle.”
“Yeah, like a cross between a laugh and a giggle. I could tell He thought the idea was funny. So He was quiet for a moment, then He starts telling me a joke. It starts off really funny, and I’m laughing. It was a story joke, you know? But as He’s telling the story, it keeps getting more and more funny, and I’m laughing out loud. But then it gets to the punchline and…”
“And I realized it was a joke about me.”
I stared at him for a moment. Have to admit, I wasn’t expecting that. So God tells Ravi a joke, but it’s a joke about Ravi. And then I understood why he wasn’t ever going to tell me the joke. Ravi is an intensely private person, and he knew that if he ever told me the joke that I’d probably wind up putting it in one of my books (which I would–and in fact, did), and the last thing this humble, private man wanted was for the whole world to read the one recorded joke told by God in human history, and he’s the punchline.
This also shows the genius of God. He granted my request, but in such a way as to make sure the joke He told never saw the light of day. It was a personal moment between two friends, and it was intended to stay that way. While I’m disappointed that I may never know what the joke was, there’s a big part of me that is more than a little satisfied to know that the God I love and serve actually told a joke.
And that I made Him giggle.
So what’s the point of all this? When looking at God’s character as displayed through His creation of the world and His first interactions with the men and women He created, we can understand that the God of the Bible, from the very beginning, has been a God who desires relationship with us. He is not an absentee landlord, nor is He some distant deity up in the sky somewhere, looking down at this world with cold, clinical fascination. He is a God who desires to walk with us in the cool of the day; who’s first act towards us was a kiss; who sees us as more than just worker bees; and who is far more relatable than we often give Him credit for. In essence, He is a God who, if nothing else, shows us right from the start that He actually HAS a character; He HAS a personality.
And it is my life’s goal, and the point of this entire book, to attempt to uncover just a fraction of that amazing, wonderful, and surprising character of God.