“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…God looked at what he had done. All of it was very good!”
That’s how the poem that opens the bible starts and ends; the God character creates something very good. Whether you see this as a literal account or a poetic description, a historical fact or figurative expression, the poem contains wisdom and truth and whatever word you would use for ‘God’ there’s a force present at the beginning of time, doing something good!
The Hebrew word used for ‘good’ is Tov, it means well crafted, well-formed and it seems that the whole of creation is well crafted, infused with life, given an ability to make more of itself, an ever changing, ever evolving force of nature that’s not static, its good, its well-formed but it’s not perfect.
Many people have been led to believe that the initial wrestle of the bible is between good and evil; a battle between heaven and hell, God and the Devil, vying for control of man, resulting in ‘the fall.’ Yet before any of that plays out there is another duel taking place, a whole different encounter; good vs perfect.
God, the divine, the original source of energy and power, that force, ultimate reality, love, creates and it’s not perfect, who knew! Perfection is a state of completion, something that is faultless or unblemished. Perfection is static, the ultimate achievement or attainment, we achieve, we attain but then what? Good, on the other hand, has room for growth, for change, for movement forwards. This is what the creation poem echoes of as day moves to night, as light becomes dark and then light again, as the seasons change and cold becomes warm, as the life giving seeds fall to the ground and die before giving birth to life; day/night, light/dark, warm/cold, life/death, it’s all good, it’s all part of it because it all belongs. This language of growth permeates the whole bible, the waiting, the trusting, the allowing for change, the all-encompassing embrace of ‘both/and’ not ‘either/or”. Even as the story progresses and the Jesus character talks of a Kingdom like no other, he uses the language of seeds and yeast and trees, all of which invite movement and growth and allow space for death and decay.
Along with the invitation to movement into the next chapter, the next part of the story, this poem that starts the bible also invites man into responsibility, ownership and accountability for this ever-evolving creation. Man is placed in a garden to work it and take care of it, a helper is sought for man, as he names each animal, an act of responsibility and relationship in itself, none of the animals are found to be a suitable helper. Instead woman is made from man’s flesh and the two walk the garden, naked and without shame. That is how their, and all our stories begin, naked and shameless. They begin without embarrassment, without humiliation or guilt, and without any feelings of worthlessness, we’re totally worthy and completely loved.
This is original goodness, it’s where all our stories start.
It’s a truth we lose as we get caught up in a world of original sin and a desire for perfection. Tov, gently reminds us that it all belongs, that we don’t have to be perfect, that life doesn’t have to be perfect, that things fall apart, that sometimes life hurts, that we’re not always as “successful” as we’d like to be and that actually, in reality, nobody else is either, despite what they project. What if ‘good’ keeps us moving forwards despite what we experience not because of it? What if ‘good’ allows us to love and own our stories with all their mess and imperfection and to keep moving forward into life? What would it look like if we stopped chasing ‘perfect’ and embraced ‘good’?