I used to love watching my kids playing on the floor as the evening slowed toward bedtime. Their world was simple, uncomplicated, and limitless. In their little world, size, for example, was irrelevant. Four inch action figures from a galaxy far, far away, could travel in Matchbox cars designed in 1970.
Where could you see Spiderman driving Speed Racer’s Mach 5 to visit a random penguin and a Power Ranger? In Luke’s room, of course. And it didn’t stop there. Luke had DC characters hanging out with Marvel heroes! Batman and Ironman were comparing gadgets and bank accounts in a Lego spaceship! Unthinkable! The Green Arrow and Hawkeye were sharing archery tips and tricks! Crazy, right?
I miss those days, witnessing unbounded imagination, unencumbered by reality. Can you remember those whimsical journeys when you were a kid? What worlds did you create? Did your imagination ever build a fort from couch cushions? Or, a secret hideout in a tree? Where was your own little, inspired realm created within the space of the real world?
We had the ability to allow our imaginations to run wild, because our real world was secure. Someone told you when it was time to eat and even provided the food. Someone reminded you to wash your hands when they were covered with dirt from your most recent adventure. Someone tucked you into bed when your imagination gave way to the night. For you the world was under control, and those courageous souls who held it at bay, gave you space to dream.
As we grow, however, I think something happens. We become increasingly aware of the tenuous nature of the real world. We remind ourselves of that simple, yet unsettling fact, constantly.
“Are you heading to the store? Be sure you drive carefully!”
“Where are you going? What time should I expect you back?”
“I was worried! I called and you didn’t answer.”
“I don’t recognize that number, I better not answer it.”
“Is it safe?”
Is anything… safe?
In our quest for safety, we limit exposure. We weigh the risks. We are constantly reminded of what we can lose. We consider who might be counting on us. And, despite our efforts, we are faced, again and again, with the hard reality that life on this planet has never been or will ever be… safe.
Therefore, we have to be responsible. Life in the real world requires it. The world is in a continual state of flux and uncertainty due to the billions of choices made by billions of humans every day. Choices interacting and impacting other choices, thus creating an endless stream of new outcomes. With so many unpredictable variables built into the human equation, we can quickly realize that it is truly amazing that we might survive long enough to watch another sunset, much less dream about the future.
So, we have to be responsible. Each one of us, for the choices we make.
And, here is the good news. Responsibility and accountability are built into our identity. From day one, we were created to be responsible.
A few weeks ago, we talked about the story of creation found in Genesis 1. (Click here if you missed it.) Over the course of the first three days, God limits chaos and establishes boundaries for His creation. Then, once chaos has come to an end, God gets His creation moving in the right direction. But, God does not do all of the work Himself during the second set of three days. When He limits chaos, he also creates space. Space for the creation itself to create. Imagination and creativity were built directly into the fabric of creation! God purposefully designed space for us to dream and be inspired.
When we dig a little deeper into the events of the sixth day, we find specific instructions that God gives to humanity.
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-28)
Right here in the first chapter of Genesis, humanity is given responsibility. We are accountable for the real world and its inhabitants. All of them. We were created for this purpose, here, in the real world. After all, we were created in the image of the Creator.
Over the years, a lot of ink has been spilled over the meaning of the “image of God.” Few believe that somehow we look like God or physically reflect His image. Some suggest that we reflect God’s spiritual qualities, intellect, or even personality. However, a brief survey of the evidence from human history would beg to differ. Others believe that being created in the “image of God” means that we have the opportunity to have a relationship with God; that we are aware enough, or intellectually capable enough, to “know” God. Again, I can’t begin to understand the physical details of the created world all around me, the world I can see, touch, feel and study. Therefore, I can’t begin to know the unseen God who actually designed and created the real world.
Instead, I suspect the answer is far more practical, and related to what God is doing on the sixth day of creation. In the Ancient Near East, citizens of distant, occupied lands would most likely never see their ruler. Therefore, a king would commission a statue to be erected in remote villages and cities to remind folks who was in charge. That statue, depicting the image of the king, was a physical representation of who had dominion.
I believe God is doing something similar here with you and me. God has placed us here as representatives of his dominion and to have authority over the world He created. We were created to be accountable, trustworthy, and reliable representatives of God to oversee the real world. We were given dominion over the world to continue the creative work of God. That is our human responsibility, and it is inescapable.
You made [humanity] master over the works of your hands; you have placed all things under his feet, flocks and cattle, all of them, even the beasts of the field; birds of the heavens, and fish of the sea, those traveling the paths of the seas. (Psalm 8:7-9, click here for a full translation of Psalm 8)
We cannot excuse ourselves from our shared duty or leave the task to someone else. But, that responsibility should not intimidate us or frighten us into inactivity or apathy. The task before us is not a chore to be undertaken reluctantly or resentfully.
We have been created and commissioned by the Creator for this purpose.
We have been created and commissioned to be creative.
We have been created and commissioned to make a lasting, positive impact and contribution to the real world.
We have been created and commissioned to create a world where together we can dream about the future.
After all, we were created in the image of God.