I’ve often said it’s the most important line in the Judeo-Christian library. And while it goes on to say much more, it begins, “In the beginning God created...”
And while I would suggest a deep wisdom from the words included by this early teacher, perhaps we can glean even deeper wisdom from the words excluded by this early teacher.
After all, this early teacher doesn’t record the primal act as, “In the beginning God argued.”
I entertain the image of an anthropomorphic, male God, surrounded by other bearded god men, each sitting upon a gilded throne, each wielding a staff of lightening, each cradling a leather grade book, each wearing a flowing robe (and how awesome would that be, by the way, to spend eternity in draped white linen – never having to shave again). And I entertain the image that from their hushed conversation, Yahweh’s voice would periodically rise, finally to say, “You know, I said seven days and I meant seven days.”
But this early teacher doesn’t record the primal act as, “In the beginning God argued.” And he doesn’t suggest the primal act as, “In the beginning God planned,” either.
Now, I don’t mean to come down on good planning. I think good planning is important. However, it seems to me that all-too-often good planning is really a pretty veil draped over the ugly face of laziness, a pretty veil draped over the ugly face of doubt, a pretty veil draped over the ugly face of fear.
Analysis paralysis is the pop term that comes to mind. It’s entirely possible to plan oneself entirely to death, you see, leaving not so much as a shred of evidence to indicate what one was planning all along. I imagine far too many tombstones could more accurately bear inscriptions reading, “He sure planned a lot.” “She sure was an excellent planner.”
This early teacher doesn’t record the primal act as, “In the beginning God planned.” And he doesn’t suggest the primal act as, “In the beginning God perfected,” either.
In fact, it quickly becomes clear that perfectionism wasn’t implied in this teacher’s narratives. Quite the opposite, really. After all, it’s mere pages into these narratives of origin that God effectively rolled his eyes, waved that staff of lightning and, shall we say, washed his hands of his first efforts altogether.
So, while it goes on to say much more, it begins, “In the beginning God created.” And yet, if you’re like me, it’s so tempting to argue, plan or perfect. If you’re like me, you have a list of people out there and practices out there that need to change. Why, I’ve become so obsessed with distracted drivers, I’ve become a distracted driver. I’ve become so puffed up in my self-assigned role as the trooper of texting that I’ve become a menace to decent, law-abiding folk everywhere.
And if you’re like me, you have a lot of plans underway; I mean, if you’re like me, you can delight audiences at cocktail parties and laundromats alike with said plans, leaving scores of Cosmo clinkers and sock soakers basking in the sweet aroma of your brilliance while you return home to an evening in your lazy boy recliner.
And if you’re like me, there’s something in you forever waiting for just a little more—a little more education, a little more funding, a little more experience, a little more help, a little more affirmation, a little more readiness, a little more faith, a little more—you fill in the blank to make it (whatever it is) just right. There’s something in you forever waiting for just a little more. And the problem with this is that the world has far too many people waiting for just a little more. Spiritual growth, development and unfoldment don’t come from people waiting for just a little more.
But this early teacher didn’t say that God argued, planned or perfected. This early teacher said that in the beginning, God created.
We might interpret or translate that in the beginning, God made, produced, caused, that God caused to make grow. I like an interpretation or translation that says, in the beginning, God brought forth.
So, take a deep breath. For in the words of so many parents who remember what it means to buy gasoline on even days, “This is gonna hurt you a lot more than it’s gonna hurt me.” (It might have been backward in your house. I don’t know.)
Here’s the deal about arguing. Race consciousness will always argue with evolution. Status quo will always argue with creativity. Mediocrity will always argue with brilliance. If you wait until all of your arguments are won to bring forth what is within you, what is within you will no longer be relevant. In colloquial terms, bringing forth what is within you isn’t what you win. Bringing forth what is within you is how you win.
And all of that obsessive planning of yours? Take another deep breath because all of your bedazzled planning ability is really quite limited. And this is the proverbial bad news and the proverbial good news. For your planning can’t discover every redirection, every pause, every disappointment. And your planning can’t discover every miracle, every serendipity, every resource, either. The point of your planning isn’t to discover every beautiful step along your path so you can finally launch your journey. The point of your planning is to finally launch your journey so you can discover every beautiful step along your path.
I think of UIL’s recent Hands-on-Housing initiative in which a widow’s home was transformed by 70 people in a single day. It was our own Daniel Kaulfus who suggested something of an 80% strategy. It goes something like this (and I own the paraphrase): Ours is to get to the point that we’re 80% sure we’re 80% ready for 80% of the project 80% of the time. And from that point, we lean in and allow the mechanisms of the universe to guide us and to grow us.
It’s like that 1976 AMC Gremlin that your sister owned in high school. (You know the one – it had blue jeans upholstery and three speeds on the floor.) You can pop that clutch all afternoon, but it’s far more likely to work if the car is already rolling. It’s like that.
And the perfectionism? The tendency to wait for just a little more? It’s a learned and habitual thirst that is seldom quenched.
Imagine what we would have missed if perfection had been more important than those first tin cans connected with wire. And imagine what we would have missed if perfection had been more important than that first manual switchboard. Imagine what we would have missed if perfection had been more important than the first mobile telephone (it weighed 80 pounds, by the way); if perfection had been more important than the first flip phone (and it cost about $3,000.00, by the way); if perfection had been more important than the launch of the iPhone.
We’d still be waiting.
Imagine what we would have missed if perfection had been more important than that very first public performance of the Beatles in 1960? Would we have lost lyrics such as, “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as though they’re here to stay. Oh, I believe in yesterday?” What might have become of, “Blackbird singing in the dead of night. Take these broken wings and learn to fly?” And would we be able to bask in the comforts of, “Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try.”
I can tell you that if perfection had been more important than my desire to have important conversations about the unity of all creation, about the inherent equality of all life, about the abuses of unexamined religion, about the beauties of spiritual practice, about the powers of consciousness, about the activities of belief, about the illusions of the senses, about the virtually unlimited capacities of the human creature to create, and about the immense responsibility that comes with those capacities – if perfection had been more important than my desire to do that, we’d still be waiting as well.
In the beginning God created.
You see, your power doesn’t come from your arguing, from your planning or from your perfecting. Your power comes from your willingness to bring forth that which is within you. And it’s not really about your personal power, either. For to bring forth that which is within you is to honor an evolution of thought that begin long before you assumed physical form; it’s to honor an evolution of thought that will continue long after you forgo physical form. It’s to honor an evolution of thought that has been entrusted to you by your ancestors and it’s to honor an evolution of thought that you will hand to your descendants, hoping they honor it as well.
Quite simply, to refuse to play our part – to refuse to bring forth that which is within us – is to decline to play our roles in the evolution of tin cans and mobile switchboards and mobile telephones. To refuse to bring forth that which is within us is to decline to play our roles in God bringing a better world into being.
In the beginning God created.