It All Starts With "Very Good"
I’ll never forget the conversation. It probably saved my marriage, and maybe my faith.
At the time I was an uptight, overworked and ill-equipped young husband, dad and missionary. It was an intense season where I felt the weight of all my various responsibilities heavy on my shoulders. I couldn’t see a way out. I was losing hope and in a moment of almost raging despair, I unloaded all of this on my wife Jane. I fully expected her to confirm my bleak, desperate assessment and commiserate with my gloomy outlook.
Her response, however, was the last thing I’d anticipated. Instead of crawling into my deep cave of despair, she yanked me into the blinding light of truth with this simple statement: “I have my happy ending.”
Goodness, Gift and Grace are our roots, our birthmarks.
Her words were precise, and her countenance firm. She refused to endorse my dark mental machinations but instead powerfully gave witness to a very different reality, one I desperately needed to experience.
In a weird way, she called me back to a Genesis 1 narrative; to seeing what is good, and pure and true and whole. Now, she wasn’t saying our situation was some kind of Garden of Eden, but that it was good; it was a gift. It was worth believing in, enjoying, holding as precious, not giving up on.
I think we all need this at times. It is so easy to lose hope, to paint it all black. Genesis 1 reminds us that what God has created — we and everything we know — was created as good, beautiful, precious.
This is the deepest of histories, a story that has been told since people first communicated and rediscovered, rehearsed and passed on to every generation. It is our ancient grounding but also profoundly influences our current context and future orientation.
Origin stories do that. They hold strong sway over every part of our identity and outlook. All of us have them: the building blocks of imaginations shaped by our knowing where we come from, what formed us, where we have entered in. Our origin stories either give us deep insight to reality or blind us to the way things truly are. Our understanding of these stories is not some dusty preface that is only remotely connected to our present context, but instead goes far in determining almost everything about our present and shaping our future.
Our origin starts with good. Compared to most other origin stories or creation narratives where conflict and turmoil, wrestling and war form the basis for humanity’s existence, the Biblical narrative is all about a unique, uncontested personality speaking all things into a dynamic, harmonious and replicating consciousness designed to reflect the essence of the Creator’s self. And it is all good.
Not only is it all good, it is all gift, all grace. Our story begins not with us or what we have done or what we will do, but as an unearned and unimaged gift, unattainable by our own effort. We are, totally because of the Other. Goodness, Gift and Grace are our roots, our birthmarks.
But how to nourish these roots? Find out in the next post.
John Ray is a missionary, spiritual director and the elder responsible for teaching at Grace Church of NWA. John and his wife Jane spend way too much time packing and unpacking, vacuuming dog hair and chasing raccoons off their porch. They much prefer sharing good food and good coffee with friends, reading and trying to keep up with their daughters.