This morning I noticed a bottle of children’s chewable gummy bear vitamins in the bathroom. This, in and of itself, is not so unusual. With two girls in the house, any manner of things can spontaneously appear and disappear in the bathroom. Shrödinger would approve.
It all started just before bedtime, as most amazingly inventive children’s activities do. It seems that desperation of impending bedtimes elicit the most imaginative of creative talents out of children from time immemorial. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Having consumed their nightly portion of ursine-shaped, gelatin-delivered nutritional supplements, something rather unexpected took place. In glorious fashion rivaled only by the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, the bottle magically morphed into a rugby ball.
Here is the picture: parents sitting at their respective desks in the living room, quietly reading. Mom is studiously working on a university paper. Dad is desperately working through the pages of another book, trying to get his Sabbatical reading list complete. The kids, well… the kids are screaming their fool heads off playing an impromptu game of keep away with the bottle of chewable gummy bear vitamins. If this were a toy or a book or an article of clothing, it would have quickly degenerated into an angry, name-calling, screaming match. But this was nothing of the sort. It was play, like two puppies pulling at opposite ends of a rag. The house was filled with loud peals of laughter and squealing, of playful taunts and wrestling (there may have been a suplex involved, but the ref was blocking my view). Up and down the stairs the girls tumbled. Over the couch and on top the cat. The dog, eager to get into the game, sets to barking frantically, waiting to be tagged in. Back through their bedrooms and, apparently, into the bathroom they rolled. It was explosive. It was wild and reckless. It was free. Being the parent with “It’s always fun until someone pokes an eye out” tattooed on my chest, I wait for the inevitable thwump and the resulting shriek of wounded pride. But none came. Spent and satisfied they dropped the vitamin bottle rugby match to pursue their other, more familiar hobbies like not brushing their teeth and not getting into bed.
I need an iPad, and iPhone and laptop computer with expensive software to have fun, and even with those technological marvels I’m rarely more than mildly amused. But here in my house, at 8:45 on a Sunday night, two girls wrestled with a bottle of children’s chewable gummy bear vitamins. And, behold the children called the game fun and God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the next day.
Sitting in a beautiful Catholic church sanctuary this morning, I was reminded once again about the non-negotiable, essential, life-or-death need of human beings to create art. It could have been the beautiful, extravagant cover of the copy of the scriptures sitting on the communion table, or the way in which the sanctuary was laid out by the architects in cruciform shape with the altar as the point of focus. It could also have been the eight brilliantly-colored stained glass panels that hovered above the table depicting the story of Creation. All of these details are extravagant. They aren’t necessary. They are superfluous to the gathering of people to worship. And yet, somehow, they aren’t excessive. They are manifestations of our innate human requirement to encounter the beautiful and, by extension, the divine. Song, glass, chalice, wood, color, shape – these things, too, are the spoken Word of God. And somehow these silent, yet pregnant words, become like umbilical cords that channel and ignite the divine spark of life that rests within us all. They are words that create order out of chaos and light out of darkness.
I spent the day yesterday in my youngest daughter’s room. The state of chaos there had reach epic proportions and threatened to unravel the space-time continuum. The moment had come to utter the sacred and time-hallowed command handed down to me by my father and his father before him from time immemorial. “Clean up your room.” But, that command is always easier said than carried out. The situation was beyond my daughter’s capacity to deal with on her own. So, Saturday was spent clearing out corners, drawers, and the dark places underneath the bed, sorting, donating, discarding, cleaning, and organizing. My older daughter was impressed with the outcome, so much so that she asked, “When are we going to do my room?” “Why don’t you go ahead and do it yourself?” I asked. “Because, you won’t be there to tell me to throw things away!” We forget the power of the spoken word.
That is what I love about the first Creation story. It is the reminder of God’s ongoing creative work of pushing back chaos so that order and light can exist. And you and I live in the midst of that ongoing creative work. We hear God’s life-giving words spoken into the world, commanding that the things that are decaying, broken, and corrupted be discarded so that life may have room to breathe. But we don’t merely have existence. We have life! We have color, and music, and hummingbirds, and the smell of freshly ground coffee, and topiaries shaped like dinosaurs, and Joss Whedon’s Firefly, and Bach, and bedrooms put in order again, and ice cream, and used bookstores. These things are God’s spoken word, and no less are you and I. And as such they—we—point to something beyond ourselves, namely, to the beauty that is in God, the life that is in the resurrected Christ, and the sacredness that is this Creation. Let us not, then, disrespect anyone nor anything on this wonder-filled, though deeply-fractured, place. No one is superfluous. Nothing is excessive or expendable.
For this is God’s spoken world.