Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Old Testament Overtime: Good

The Old Testament inspires me.  And quite often, I find it beautiful dischordant with life in the 21st Century.  With OT OT (Old Testament Overtime), I'd like to explore some of those contrasts as they strike me.  Today:


For six days, God created.  (Genesis 1)  At the end of each day, He sat back and reflected on all He had brought into this world - indeed, reflected on the world itself.  And He saw that it was "good."  That's all we're told about His satisfaction.  This...was good.

Every time I read that, I think of God kickin' back with a deep sigh of contentment and a smile on His face.  It brings a smile to my face and I find myself nodding.  As an artist, is there anything better than "good"?

There is not.  In creation, "good" satisfies me more even than "great" and certainly more than "perfect" - because perfect is a misnomer, for nothing ever is.  When I was working construction (and I'm temporarily unemployed again, as we've run out of contracted sites for the moment), I'd fabricate a tough spot or come up with a conserving solution or just cut a tricky piece of siding around a window, and when it worked, my boss would look at me, pause, and say, "Beautimous."  And the truth is that in these days, I preferred beautimous to good.  Had he told me it was good, I would have looked at him and asked, "What's wrong with it?"

Good is a word that, as an artist, I use with myself and am satisfied.  But in today's world, it's a word that's been warped to mean almost its opposite.  It's only "good"? we'd ask.  Why isn't it great?  Or fantastic?  Or excellent?  Or spectacular?  Or perfect?  Or even beautimous?  Why isn't it better than good?  Good is almost an insult.

It's because, I think, we think we're not anything unless we're better than someone or something else.  We'll never climb the corporate ladder if our performance evaluations are not superior.  We aren't a good friend at all if we're not the first friend you call.  We're not "doing good" in the world unless we're great at it.

Yet we know that when God created the world and said it was "good," He wasn't harboring any tweaks in His heart.  He wasn't waiting on another chance to change a few things here and there.  (Even after the flood, He did it the same way.)  He wasn't resigned to what it was; it was His, and He liked it that way.  It was good.  Good was contentment.  Good was satisfaction.  Good was...perfect.

Good was more than you or I could have pulled off.  It was more than we could have come up with out of thin air.  (Oh wait...He came up with thin air, too.)  And today, we think we're more than good? We think we're better than good?  What arrogance!

It's not just our work, our passion, our hands, or our love; we want more than good in our lives.  When we reach that place that life is good, we settle in a bit and let ourselves breathe.  But only for a moment...then we want to know what's next.  It's good...but there has to be something more than good.  Right?  Then even when we find it, in the most extravagant of lifestyles, the most blessed of experiences, the mountaintops, the unbelievables, the can't-stop-smilings, we describe ourselves as "living the good life."  Not the great life.  Or the perfect life.  Or the incredible life.  Just the good life.  Our hearts know, even when we try to convince them differently, that the best there possibly is...is good.

And isn't that great?  That there's this place inside of us that remembers good and reflects it in our life, our love, and our language by pure instinct?  

In embracing good, we allow ourselves to embrace grace.  We separate ourselves from a culture that demands we be more.  From a world where "good" means something's missing.  We declare that maybe by the world's standards, something is lacking, but by a higher standard, this is it.  This is how it was created to be.  Whether it is who we are or what we do, embracing good allows us to stand meager in our offering and let good be good enough to let God.  In all our imperfections, in all our shortcomings, just as we are...God, by His hand, created us and declared us to be good.  Still.  Just like this.  Just as we are.  This is good.

When we know that, when we know good and put it into every place of our lives, we know grace.  And we know God.  Isn't that beautimous?

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