Friday, June 12, 2009

Working It and Keeping It

It says in Genesis 2:8 that “the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.” It goes on to say in 2:15 that “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” All this of course follows, and to a great extent explains, the more general description of man’s purpose as found in Genesis 1:28 - And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

OK, so back to our yards…for those of you that accept the importance and significance of what we read in Genesis above…

Our yard or garden is one little spot under the sun that God has given us that we might exercise dominion over His creation. We can rightly say indeed that by God’s providence He Himself has given our yard or garden to us and placed us in it. Genesis 2 helps understand the nature of this dominion. We are placed in our little bit of creation “to work it and keep it.”

So what does exercise dominion in the sense of “working it and keeping it” look like?

I think that “working it and keeping it” means making our place as beautiful as we reasonably can, since God made His world to be beautiful and pleasing, reflecting back as it were the beauty of His own person. As He created, He Himself liked what He saw, and He pronounced it “good.” I wonder if He would say “good” as to how we have worked and kept our bit of creation? Beauty is important to the Creator of all that is beautiful, and it is important to our neighbor. Indeed, we have more than enough ugliness to contend with on a day to day basis as it is. Beauty is itself a kind of sanctuary.

"Working it and keeping it” means that we seek to extract as much potential goodness out of our little piece of God’s earth as we can. This may mean working the soil to make it even richer, or planting trees and shrubs and flowers that will draw out the fruitfulness of the earth in beautiful and exciting ways. Many of these plants will then provide food for our animal friends. We can plant food for ourselves too – enough even to give some to our needy neighbors. In so doing we extract out a goodness that was there only as it were in waiting for us.

“Working it and keeping it” includes seeking to bless not just other people but all of God’s creatures in and by the bit of the earth He has loaned to us. Birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, amphibians, arachnids – all these can find a home and sources of food in our little spot of the earth. Each adds richness to creation and joy to human life (yes, even spiders when adequately understood). I think of the various animals being brought before Adam (who was alone), each of which (with affection I believe) he named (and blessed in so doing), and I can’t help but think that we were meant to be friends to the animals, and a means by which God blesses them. I believe that animals (especially the higher animals of course) experience a kind of happiness in living, in simply being unselfconsciously what they are. And we get to help bring that about, working in cooperation with Him “who fathers-forth whose beauty is past change. Praise Him.”

“Working it and keeping it” would include I believe care for our human neighbors all around us – within sight and earshot, but also downwind and downstream. Do I really wish to disturb my neighbor’s peace with my power blower? Do I want to pollute the air and water of all my neighbors downstream and downwind? I don’t. Neither do I wish to bring harm to God’s creatures downwind and downstream either.

“Working it and keeping it” could well include providing a place of beauty and haven and rest for needy and wounded souls battered by the difficulties of this life. Even though beaten and battered ourselves, we can extend hospitality to others by giving them a place to rest and to refresh. The smallest yard can be this kind of place, even a porch garden.

I remember many times in my life when I have been struck at how an extremely small and humble home and yard can be made into a haven of beauty. This can happen amidst urban blight, in a small abode tucked next to a freeway, or in a poor rural cottage. Living well in this way is not restricted to the rich or to those with lots of money to spend on their properties. Within humble means we can bring beauty out of ugliness, working and keeping the little spot in which God has placed us.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Well put, Joel.