I enjoy reading C.S. Lewis’ works. If Lewis had a Twitter account, I’m sure each Tweet would be 280 characters of pure alphabetical chocolate. In one of Lewis’s books, The Magician’s Nephew, Lewis tells the story of the creation of the land of Narnia, where we read of Aslan walking around a particular planet, causing life to burst forth from the barren ground beneath his feet, and making regular beasts into talking beasts.
Those who are familiar with the Scriptures know that this story of Narnia is based on the truths found on page number one of the Scripture. But we ask, “What in the world does Aslan and Genesis 1 have to do with work?” Well, let’s dive into page one of the Bible and take a look.
What’s On Page One?
Right off the bat we find one of the most familiar verses in all of the Bible:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” – Genesis 1:1-2 (ESV)
Everyone knows Genesis 1:1, but the verse that immediately follows contains a significant thought on this thing called work. Notice what verse 2 says about creation, it is “without form and void,” which in the Hebrew has the idea of “a wild wasteland.” The second verse of the Bible presents us with a creation that is not organized or smoothed out and needs a little more divine TLC. This is where God gets to action. He creates light for this wasteland, organizes the water, brings about land, fills the land with creatures, and brings beauty to the creation. Page one is all about God taking chaos and turning it into order; taking something that is in disarray and arranging it; taking disharmony and harmonizing it; he takes a wild wasteland and makes a garden. God has one more thing to create, which He calls “Adam,” meaning “man” in Hebrew. God then tells the man to care for the garden, basically telling Adam, “Get to work!” God summarizes it all for us, telling us, “It is very good.”
When we read page one of the Bible, we usually don’t connect God’s creation of Adam with God’s command to Adam, but this right here is our one thing from page one: at its core, work is making order out of chaos and is a very good means to the flourishing of human beings.
Page One and Human Flourishing
Do you see the connection? God takes a wild wasteland of chaos and disorder and brings about beautiful and wonderful order, then immediately creates man in his own image. If we’re to read the Scriptures for the very first time with no preconceptions whatsoever, you would see God create the world, create humans, give them a command, and then you would conclude, “Oh, so this creature made in the image of God must be designed to also make order out of chaos.”
We often view the work we have as a burden and something that simply needs to get done so it can be over. Rather, based on what we see on page one of Scripture, we must see work, bringing order out of chaos, as a very good way that we image forth the God of eternity.
Page One and The Gospel
All this is not merely a philosophical discussion of work just for the sake of being cute and pithy; this is exactly what we find in the gospel itself! Sin wrought destruction in our lives and in the world, which is cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Our heart of stone is turned into a new living heart. The flesh, with its twisted and perverse desires, is put to death and replaced with the Spirit, who is leading us into Christ-like living. Every day of the Christian life, the gospel conquers its way into more and more of the chaos and wild wasteland of sin, transforming us glory to glory as we behold Christ.
Page One and My Life Today
So what does this look like practically for young people today? Let’s take a look at a few examples:
- Schoolwork: This looks like taking a bunch of jumbled thoughts and ideas as you study a topic, and creating an ordered way of thinking about it. Papers are a great example of this— you are taking a hodgepodge of research and ideas and then creating an orderly paper. This is following in the footsteps of God and is a way to experience human flourishing.
- Chores: Getting stuff done around the house is imitating our Father who took a wild wasteland (which is certainly how a house can feel at times, what with all the laundry and dishes and dirt covering every nook and cranny) and created an orderly place of dwelling.
- Art: Whether it’s musically taking a chaos of notes and sounds to create an ordered and beautiful song, or taking an array of colors and ordering them into a beautiful painting, you are tapping into the image of God within you and are functioning as a flourishing human being.
- Clothing: Even putting on an outfit for the day is taking a chaotic closet of threads (some closets far more chaotic than others) and making order out of colors and patterns.
- Cooking: Preparing a meal takes a chaotic array of spices and flavors and makes an orderly and delicious meal for others to enjoy as you enjoy the image of God within you (and then send some of that food my way, please).
- Employment: If you find yourself at a part-time job filled with random responsibilities, view each one as a way to make order out of chaos, knowing that in doing so, you are functioning as God designed you to be as a human being.
One thing from page one of the Bible is that we are created, as God’s image bearers, to bring order out of chaos, which is a very good means to experiencing true and full humanity. I believe C.S. Lewis understood this truth in the way he portrayed Aslan creating Narnia, in bringing light out of darkness, or in taking regular beasts and turning them into talking beasts. Do you desire to experience true and full human flourishing? Then look at your life now and see how you might, like the gospel, bring order out of the chaos around you.
~ Aaron Lichtenwalner ~