by Molly Sidell
Artists must maintain a certain amount of childlikeness. A childlike delight compels the artist to constantly discover, learn new ways to express, continually wonder, and always search for more. Throughout history we see artists viewed as geniuses prophets, however, the artist is merely a person who can express and tell the story of the state of the human condition, and decide the best way to cultivate all the information gathered. We all operate as artists, in many senses. We live compelled to create, explore, discover, and relate. Everyone creates and cultivates something. When God created the earth, plants animals, and all of the land and the heavens, he created men to cultivate that which he made. In doing so, we come back to the original plan for mankind, abiding with God in his garden, and He abiding in ours. We are all made to plant beautiful gardens—to the great joy of the one who makes them grow and bloom. We are all made to take hard, cursed ground, cultivate and restore it, and abide with God in the pure garden of delight. We must take back lost ground, cultivate and restore it, and commune with God—delighting in all He has done. The Lord has conquered the curse, and invites us to enter back into the attitude of delight, and abide with Him in His garden.
As Christians, we must fight for restoration and bring ourselves back to this garden. Cornelius Plantinga Jr., in his essay, “Educating for Shalom,” discusses the idea of a great battle to retake land that has been lost. He explores the word “shalom,” which he defines as “wholeness and harmony in the world,” in order to present an overarching call for the Christian life. We must “battle for universal wholeness and delight,” and follow Jesus in “righting what’s wrong, in transforming what’s corrupted, in doing the things that make for peace.” He acknowledges the battle of good vs. evil, and that we must unceasingly pursue the reclaiming of the corrupted, and proposes that we win this battle through the attitude of delight.
Since the fall, the people of God have struggled to maintain the goodness of the garden in the great battle of good vs. evil. C.S. Lewis explains the presence of evil and the retaking of territory in his book, “Mere Christianity.” Good and evil are in an age long battle, and the kingdoms of this world have been infiltrated by this evil power. However things appear, these kingdoms, and nature itself, are not made up of evil, but of what it was originally created—good. In the beginning we were created good, in the image of God, and we were created to rule and cultivate the earth. When rebellion and pride entered the world we became a part of the longest civil war in history, and we must not become complacent. The power of darkness has been defeated, but we continue to fight a real and furious battle (Lewis, 50-53). Christ has conquered the power of death, making a way for us to return to the garden, so we must follow him in reclaiming all that has been lost, overcome all evil with good, speak peace to the chaos, and battle for the wholeness and restoration of what God originally intended.
We live in “a universe at war,” Lewis writes, “a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel. [This is] enemy occupied territory[…and] Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, […] and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage”(Lewis, 51). We have fallen, and live in a fallen world, but Jesus broke the curse that once enslaved us. We no longer have to live under the power of sin; rather, Jesus makes a way for us to come back to the garden and abide with Him. We must actively pursue and live this out. We cannot live in hopelessness and despair, hiding out until the Lord comes back, but we must actively take back all that the enemy has stolen from us. We must take back the ground and rule over it as we were created to do.
How do we take back this ground? It sounds nice, but how do we actually go about restoring and cultivating? Perhaps the answer is in the beginning—in what God created us for. In Plantinga’s writings about “shalom”, he cites some views of Lewis, reiterating that, “we are trying to retake territory that has been captured by the enemy. We are trying to recapture society, culture, and all creation for Jesus Christ.” He presents the idea that we capture lost ground through the attitude of delight. We are to fight for shalom, which is “wholeness and harmony in the world,” and we do this by “delighting in the wonders of creation that remain.” We defeat the enemy by fighting in the opposite spirit. How do we overcome despair, selfishness, rejection and pride? We fight with delight, selflessness, stewardship, and worship.
God has commissioned us to join Him in an attitude of delight, cultivate the ground that He has given to us, and return to the garden. Father created every piece of ground in our lives to produce beauty and life, so we must steward intentionally, violently take it, and cultivate it into something beautiful. In doing so, we join with God in His passion—creating beauty and fellowship. God created the garden for men to co-create, worship, and glorify Him. We should intentionally cultivate and nurture our gardens and invite Him to come abide with us. We must also respond to the invitation to join God in His gardens and abide with Him. We are all creators and artists, called to reflect the nature of God and reveal the love He has for His creation. Rich Mouw, President of Fuller Seminary, describes God as a small child, giggling and delighting over His creation, saying, “again! again!” When the Lord looks at an eagle fly in the morning, or a fish swim to the depths of the sea, he giggles, like a child, and calls it good—every day he does this. Every time he sees us going to work, walking our pets, playing with a child, laughing, signing, crying, discovering, and cultivating, He giggles, like a delighted child, and calls us good. Let us joining with God and call good things good. Let us join with God in delight, worship him in all we do, and glorify him in all we produce. Let us join with God, for the sake of worship and delight, and make things good. We all must continue our journey back to the garden, and abide with Him.