The Common Good

My Changing Understanding of Creation (and Five More Ways to Keep it Simple and Go Green)

Over the years my understanding of the creation account has changed. I would picture Barbie and Ken doubling as Eve and Adam, and maybe it had something to do with a series of Bible stories on tape that my parents bought for us, I always heard God's voice as Burl Ives. (Imagine my shock when I watched "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" for the first time. God was also Sam the Snowman.)

Some Sunday School teachers would emphasize the number of days while others would focus on things like Adam being created first. My mind would wander off and imagine dressing my Barbie and Ken dolls in fig leaves or animal skin.

Once in a blue moon a teacher would remind us that having babies is God-ordained by quoting Genesis 1:28:

God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

Fruitful? Increase? Fill? (Insert very optional abstinence lesson here, which didn't matter since none of our parents were ever going to talk about sex. I don't even know the Korean word for sex, now that I think about it.) Check.

Subdue? Rule? Doesn't that mean we can do whatever we want 'cuz God left us in charge?

No. Subdue and rule doesn't give humankind carte blanche over the earth. Left to our own devices we have some issues to work out. I've grown to understand that God's mandate to us is not to rape and pillage the earth but instead to care and create.

Nancy Pearcey in her book Total Truth writes:

In Genesis, God gives what we might call the first job description: "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it." The first phrase, "be fruitful and multiply" means to develop the social world: build families, churches, schools, cities, governments, laws. The second phrase, "subdue the earth," means to harness the natural world: plant crops, build bridges, design computers, compose music. This passage is sometimes called the Cultural Mandate because it tells us that our original purpose was to create cultures, build civilizations-nothing less.

I continue wrestle with this interpretation as much as I am grateful for it. It reminds me that I can stop having babies (thank you, Jesus!) and still participate in being fruitful and multiplying by helping develop the social world. It also makes me think about the natural world. As a Christian I can often be guilty of living in the not-yet -- looking heavenward so much so that I lose sight of the life here on this earth God has given me.

So over the years my family and I have talked about what it means to participate in harnessing the natural world, so to speak. What does it mean for our family and the impact it has on the world/community/neighborhood around us? How can we make what can become so complex and beyond us (like building bridges) into something simple?

Well, we've tried a few simple things can slowly change the way we interact with the natural world to see how that changes us and our relationship with God and others.

  1. We garden. It started out with some potted plants and then a raised bed with patio plants and then a smaller and then larger chunk of the grass that we hate to fertilize, water, mow, and rake.
  2. We recycle like crazy. Our village makes it easy with curbside collection in a separate rolling cart. We usually fill the recycling bin and our garbage bin feels left out.
  3. We compost. Again, it's easy for us. We have a very nice yard and some bushes that hide the ugly compost bin. The kids quickly caught on, and it's fun throwing in dryer lint with the banana peels. No critter problems or strange smell. It's a little bit of a pain in the dead of winter since that means sub-zero temps and snow/ice to trek through. A couple of times the lid was frozen shut.
  4. We bought rain barrels. Again, this has been easy for us. We could afford to buy the barrels through the university extension office, and we have gutters we can cut (well, Peter cut them) because we own our home. We have two barrels, not homes. I would get another one if I could figure out how to replace the chain link fence with a nice hedge of bushes for free.
  5. We use a random unscientific combination of Craigslist, Freecycle, Goodwill, and garage sales with the usual stores. You cannot believe how thrilled I was last summer when Elias came along with me to a garage sale and snagged a box full of Legos and a box of Bionicles for a mere $10. Never mind that I need more Legos like I need a hole in my head. He understood the art and skill of second-hand shopping!

Nothing new, complex, or completely odd in that short but simple list. But isn't that what makes it become easier? One step at a time? What are some of things that you have tried/are trying to harness the natural world and why are you doing those things?

portrait-kathy-khangKathy Khang is a regional director of multi-ethnic ministries for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and blogs at morethanservingtea.wordpress.com

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