A few times this week, I've wondered out loud what it means to be created in the image of God. But perhaps another worthwhile question is what it means to be created at all. To begin to answer this, we look not to the creation of man, but to the creation in general - to darkness and light, earth and heaven, water and land.
There's been much debate over the Genesis account of Creation. What does the Bible mean when it says "six days"? Are we talking here about six literal days, a Sunday through Friday sort of motif, or are we talking about six ages or periods of Creation, in the metaphorical use of the word "day"? As I pondered this question recently with some friends and colleagues in ministry, I wondered what the latter interpretation suggests about the power of God. If we are to believe that God created the entire universe out of a Word, that He spoke and things came to be, then how are we supposed to account for a creation that takes six ages to complete? Of course, the more I've thought about it, how could it take even six whole days? If God speaks and separates the darkness from the light, how does that take even one whole day? I mean, just how long does it really take to separate darkness from light if you're the omnipotent God of all Creation?
That...is the question.
But the more I've thought about it, the more it seems to make sense that this Creation could take a whole day, or even an age. God spoke, and the light and the darkness began to separate, the earth and the heaven started to divide, water and land worked their way toward their mutual corners. But movement takes some time. And so does stillness.
It takes some time for darkness to work its way wholly out of the light. Light, of course, cannot work its way out of darkness; darkness never produces light. So it's darkness's responsibility to move at the command of God. (Isn't that cool, by the way?) God speaks, and darkness starts to move, but it takes some time to get to where it's going. And once it gets there, it takes some time to settle in. Yes, this is the God who calmed the wind and the waves with a word, but He's no taskmaster at Creation; He's an artist.
There has to be time for the paint to dry.
There has to be time for darkness to settle into its place, for light to spread over the void created by darkness leaving. There has to be time for the earth to solidify into its form. The artist never forms the clay without firing it, never shapes the form without letting it set. The earth may have come together at God's command, but it takes some time for the pieces to stick. The water, receding from the land and finding its rest in the oceans, is still, we might argue, settling. The waves are evidence enough of that.
It's like dropping a marble down the side of the bowl - it rolls around and up and down for awhile until it finally comes to settle in the bottom, but put another marble in, and they're likely to strike and stir up both. I think this early Creation was probably something like that. Darkness started to settle, only to have more darkness push in and stir it all up. The earth began to form only to have more earth come to cling to it. The waters receded, but as more and more water dripped into the oceans, it all got stirred up again and formed the waves. Eventually, yes, things will settle where they are, but it takes some time.
Maybe even a whole day. Or perhaps an entire age.
It's all theory, of course, since nobody but God knows precisely how Creation works. But it's hard for me to embrace the idea that God authoritatively picked every little fleck of darkness out of the light by His mere Word. He could, but I don't think that's His style. It's hard for me to accept that God grabbed every piece of earth and compacted this ball of matter in His hands until it couldn't come apart. Again, He could, but I don't think that's His style. It's hard for me to imagine God pushing all the water around until it fell into the oceans He prepared for it. It's just not how God works.
When we say that God created the world, we often say, too, that He set this world into motion. And that's what I think Creation must have been like. God spoke, and the darkness started to move. He spoke, and the heavens and earth started to move. He spoke, and the land and the sea started to move. And when you start to move, it takes awhile to settle back down again. It takes some time to settle into your place. It takes some time to discover and become who God has declared you to be - to become darkness, to become light; to become heavens, to become earth; to become waters, to become land. It takes some time to stop rolling around like marbles in a bowl.
And I think it's by the grace of God that we're all given that time.
That's why I don't worry too much about six days in Genesis, about how long Creation really took. How long does it take to separate darkness from light? I don't know. But I know that at a Word, darkness began to move and by grace, God gave the darkness as much time as it needed to get there.