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 intuit a deep wisdom from these inaugural words chosen by this early teacher, I have to wonder if we might glean equal wisdom from the words not chosen 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 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 draped white linen – never having to shave again). And I entertain the image that from their hushed conversation Yahweh’s voice would finally rise above the din to say, “You know, I said seven days and I meant seven days.”
Or, “Start with the rib, I tell you.”
But this early teacher doesn’t record the primal act as, “In the beginning God argued.”
If you are at the beginning of a thing, trying to convince others of your vision may or may not be in your best interest.
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 just 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, a pretty veil draped over the ugly face of procrastination.
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 appropriately bear inscriptions reading, “He sure planned a lot.” “She sure was an excellent planner.”
But 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 creation that God was imagined to effectively rolled his eyes, wave that staff of lightning and, shall we say, flush the entire experiment altogether.
So, this early teacher doesn’t record the primal act as, “In the beginning God perfected,” either.
Rather, 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 and a list of behaviors and a list of circumstances – all out there that need to change. As I’ve said before, I’ve become so obsessed with distracted drivers that 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. Arguing, you see.
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. Planning.
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. The great works of the world don’t come through those who demonstrate perfection, you see, but through those who demonstrate availability.
But this early teacher didn’t say that God argued, planned or perfected. This early teacher said that in the beginning, God created.
We often interpret or translate this text to say that in the beginning, God made or produced or created as if working on an assembly line. But for me, the translation that speaks to me says that in the beginning, God brought forth from Itself.
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 your bedazzled planning ability is really quite limited as well. While you might be disappointed to accept that your planning can’t discover every redirection, every pause, every disappointment, perhaps you might be gladdened to recognize that 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.
It was UIL’s own Daniel Kaulfus who suggested something similar in what he called his 80% strategy during the first Hands-on-Housing initiative. It goes something like this (and I completely own the paraphrase, Daniel): 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. And “speed” is a generous word to associate with a 1976 AMC Gremlin. 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; if perfection had been more important than the first flip phone (and it cost about $3,000.00, by the way);
Imagine what we would have missed 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? Imagine what we would have missed. 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 compulsion to bring forth important conversations about the unity of all creation, about the inherent equality of all life, about the abuses of unexamined religion; if perfection had been more important than my compulsion to bring forth important conversations about the beauties of spiritual practice, about the powers of consciousness, about the activities of belief, about the limitations of the senses; if perfection had been more important than my compulsion to bring forth important conversations about the virtually unlimited capacities of the human creature to create, and about the immense responsibility that comes with those capacities, we’d still be waiting as well.
In the beginning God created. You see, your power doesn’t rise from your arguing, planning and perfecting. Your power rises from your willingness to bring forth that which is within you.
I have to believe that’s why the great saying attributed to Goethe has endured for so long, “Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”
Ultimately, to bring forth that which is within you is to assume your place in an evolution of thought that began long before you assumed physical form; it’s to assume your place in an evolution of thought that will continue long after you forgo physical form. It’s to assume your place in an evolution of thought that has been handed to you by your ancestors and entrusted to you by your descendants.
Quite simply, to refuse to assume that place – to refuse to bring forth that which is within you – is to decline to play your role in the evolution of tin cans and mobile switchboards and mobile telephones and timeless and sublime music. To refuse to bring forth that which is within you is to decline to play your role in God’s thinking of a better world into being.
In the beginning God created.