Day 1: Freedom of the Gift
Every human being is a gift from God. Before we are born from natural descent, tossed and anchored by parental decisions and influences—we are born of God (Jn. 1:12, 13). That is not our first thought. As products of a secular, therapeutic culture, we muse more on the unsteady hands that formed our vessels than on the Maker who marked us as His marvels of creation. We are created by Love, for love. Deeper than our cracks and discoloring lie the blessing of being human: God conceived and composed, God sustained, and God confirmed as persons ‘made in His image.’ Unlike the rest of creation, our humanity intrinsically bears the mark of the divine.
We represent Him on earth by stewarding well the rest of creation. Out of pure, generous love, He chose to give us the gift of creation: ‘every creature bears within itself the sign of the original and fundamental gift’ (TOB 13:4). Gifts all, but humans alone can think, reason, and act to extend His creative freedom in how we care for creation. That thoughtful action constitutes ‘image-bearing.’ He made humans ‘free with the very freedom of the gift’ (TOB 15:2), and yet…
Genesis 2 describes unfallen man engaging with God and creation happily, yet with a void. The undifferentiated solitary man loves communing with his Creator. He enjoys engaging with creation, naming the animals. Yet he lacks. Freedom for God and work leaves him a little empty. His freedom to know the gift he is hinges upon another who shares his humanity and yet is distinct from him. He awakens to the fullness of his image-bearing only after the woman emerges from him.
Communion worthy of an image-bearer requires reciprocity and ‘otherness’—a fellow body whose difference awakens ours and draws us into communion. Woman and man are naked gifts from God for each other, tailored to satisfy our mutual aloneness exquisitely: to meet needs neither God nor mission can.
Needs to give, to talk, to listen, to touch--finally ‘free with the very freedom of the gift (TOB 15:2).’ We discover who we are in freely offering our human gift. The complexity of that gift is roused, revealed, and fulfilled in opening to this other.
We ‘east-of-Edeners’ may roll our eyes at old myths, squinting at paradise with bloodshot eyes and a wounded heart. May I suggest we linger at creation and ask Jesus to awaken sights and songs of paradise? Broken yes, all, yet we humans still bear His image. That means the freedom, however dormant, to know the gift we are and rediscover something of its original fullness. Jesus, lead on…
‘Jesus, rouse the gift we are. Help us to attend to the treasure you summon from the trash. Free us from our constant faultfinding and free us for vestiges of paradise in our memories and in our lives today. We refuse the liar who tries to rewrite Eden out of our histories. Unite us to the home of our original dignity.’
‘Jesus, have mercy on us as Your Church. We have abused weaker members, including children, and protected ourselves. We have violated the most vulnerable. In Your mercy, free us to superabound with justice. Grant us Kingdom discernment and courage to reform ourselves. May our repentance grant us Kingdom authority to strengthen the weak, discipline violators, and restore the violated.’