If you are like me, you have a love-hate relationship with the things on your productive plate.
You may find identity by what you accomplish, how much of it you do, and the response of others. By the time I hit the shower each day, I fight the urge to check my email, see how many social media likes I have, add to my to-do list, cross-off, add more. Every day. Never ending. Week to week, hour to hour, minute to minute. Thinking I have to take control from here or things will spiral out of control. Wishing I had a whiteboard in the shower so I don’t forget to add something I remembered I have to do.
Sound familiar? That’s what I thought.
Like me, you may also come to the end of each day wondering if something, or someone is missing. A confining and never-ending cycle that leaves me asking: Is this it? Is this life? Or is there more? Was this what I was created for? Who I was created for?
Generativity is beautiful. Its part of how God made us.
As productive beings. With passions, visions, hopes, ideas, theories, details, tasks, and callings to create. Creative beings who co-collaborate with their creator. What a privilege. What an opportunity. What a responsibility.
In Genesis 1, when God made man and woman, they were created in the image of God. This term, the imago Dei has become rote to many of us. We take it for granted and tend to think of it as meaning that we "reflect" God. That is too simple.
In ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, the imago Dei was reserved for monarchy. That is, only the Pharoah, or Ra possessed the image. They were God-like heralds that spread the image to the people. Those that had special access. Ultra-human. Referred to in the ancient near east as the 'arad kitti' or “the faithful servant”. A living symbol of the authority God gave to a special few, the kings who had servants lucky to be acquainted with the super-human king, the image representative of God.
This is interesting stuff, but what does it have to do with us today? A lot.
Consider this: When the Christian Scriptures tell us that all of humankind was made in God’s image and that God called them very good, He was doing something incredibly subversive. Declaring that you and I and every human you’ve ever met were made this way. The annoying, unrepentant, malicious, manipulative, unforgiven: All image bearers.
We were told that God doesn’t have a special class of citizen. Rather, that the king of heaven views everyone as a worthy messenger and carrier of God’s presence on earth. That we all are “co-heirs” in God’s monarchy and the King’s creative process. That we all have the ability to co-make, co-create, and co-fashion this beautiful world God gave us for the end that He can look down like He did upon his children and say “that is VERY GOOD”. Those whose King became a servant, by creating servants that can live as kings. Good, generous, loving, sacrificial, creative, and kind stewards of their queen and kingship.
You see, God’s love had taken on flesh…in us. The king made us kingly.
Fast-forward. If you read the Old Testament from this Genesis story to the end of the Prophets you will find that we made a mess of things, and this empowering love we were endowed with by our creator.
That the image (the imago) became blurry. That the lives of those God created were not creating, being fruitful, and multiplying like their creator, God. Instead, they were destroying, manipulating, conniving, abusing, and exploiting each other and the magnificent creation that reflected the loving God that made it.