“Wow…that was really good!”
This was my initial reaction after the lights came on in the movie theater at the end of the recent film, The Giver. And this reaction is sometimes a bit of a big deal for me as I have increasingly become a bit of a movie snob thanks to an old roommate.
When I first saw the trailer for the movie, I immediately remembered my fellow young fifth grade friends (well, to be honest I didn’t have many of those back then) reading the book. At that time, the book seemed a little more advanced than I was willing to shoot for. To top that, everyone was doing it so it wouldn’t have been cool for me to do it (or so I thought).
After watching the movie tonight, however, I feel like the 8 or so hours of homework that I did for my Old Testament Theology course came to life in this film. I spent the majority of my Saturday reading about creation and there are a few thoughts that have stuck with me thus far and are now engrained in my head after watching The Giver.
First is the idea that God made creation
perfect good. For most of my Christian life, I had been under the assumption that God created a perfect world that became imperfect the moment that sin entered the world through humanity’s disobedience. While this thought certainly isn’t out of the ordinary, I now see it in a different light–God created the world good but not perfect. Think about it this way: God created a very good universe (that’s what he says in Genesis 1). This universe wasn’t static but it was created to be dynamic (0n the move). The creation was intended to go somewhere, to do something rather than simply hang in a perfect crystal ball for God to look at admiringly. This meant that improvements were going to be made. And you don’t make improvements to things that are perfect.
The second thought that has been rolling through my head is closely connected to the first. It is this: since the world wasn’t perfect in the beginning, humanity’s calling to fill the earth and subdue it (Genesis 1:27-28) makes a little more sense. Women and men together would be a reflection of the Creator as they cared for creation. Since we were made in God’s image, we would have the ability to be creators in our own right as we work in God’s vineyard and bring forth good “fruit”. Of course this very idea that God would empower humanity to create gave space to humanity to make decisions. In humanity’s freedom to make decisions they made a bad one. But God didn’t trash the whole project when humanity messed up; instead, he provided a way to move forward.
With the two above points swarming in my mind, I watched The Giver. If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, the basic premise is that a group of people decided to create a world without emotions, natural disasters, pain, suffering, or anything that could create unpredictability. In this world of immense control, there is one person who is given the memories of the way the world was before (the receiver of memory). What was so fascinating about this movie is that the elders controlling these communities attempted to remove everything that was unpredictable from the world. I admit, that this seems like a nice idea sometimes. I mean, who enjoys being hurt by other people, life circumstances, nature, etc? But the reality is that it’s simply not the way that God created the world to be. There are natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis that spontaneously and instantaneously change the way that we are living. Our emotions most certainly add to the unpredictability of life. People hurt us and they love us. Situations and circumstances occur that are out of our control.
The elders in The Giver certainly used their creativity to recreate this world and eradicate the aforementioned things. In order to accomplish this, they had to do a lot of imagining, dreaming, thinking, and planning to create their little world the way that they wanted it. This certainly shows the immense capacity that God has given to humans to create. The issue with their world, however, was that they were not able to embrace creation as it was intended to be. They were limiting themselves from further possibilities of life. As a result, they missed out on the way that God intended life to be: full of color.
So, here’s the challenge for me in my life and maybe you too: be open to the unpredictable situations and circumstances of life. Without these we would not have the opportunity to reflect the image that we were created in as humans. As Eugene Peterson reminds us, “I can never be involved in creativity except by entering the mess. Mess is the precondition of creativity.”
So embrace the messiness of life–the pain, the sorrow, the loss, the confusion, the heart breaks, the joys, the contentment, the mundane, the excitement, the happiness, the pleasures–and create something beautiful out of it. Realize that you are part of this great creation that Creator God has made. You have thoughts, feelings, desires, dreams, and so much more. Allow the Creator God to shape those and use them to move his creation in his direction of joy, peace, and righteousness. Be the full human that you were created to be–messiness and all. Live in color!
Maybe then we will really find what life is and see how good the Giver of Life is.
***Please note that these ideas are inspired by the following writings: Themes in Old Testament Theology by William Dyrness, a chapter titled “God Created the World Good, Not Perfect” in Creation Untamed: The Bible, God, and Natural Disasters by Terence E. Fretheim, and the recent film, The Giver.***