Here’s a conversation I had with JP, my three year old, today, as he watched his brother and sister having a dispute over a toy (which, of course, out of the gazillions of toys in our house–and we’re painfully aware of each one of them since we just moved and organized all of them–they both wanted the same one at the same time).
JP: Did you make that toy at church?
Me: No, I didn’t make it.
JP: Did God make it?
Me: No, He didn’t.
JP: Did God make our house?
Me: No, but God made the trees, and we use trees to help us build houses.
JP: God can’t make houses?
Me: No, He CAN make houses, but He doesn’t. He lets us build houses.
For once, JP didn’t use his favorite word, but I’ll ask it in his place. Why?
I’ve had similar conversations with my other two kids, so we’ve gone through many different types of items and discussed which ones God has directly made. We’ve talked about how God made our brains, so anything we make was made possible by Him. Through these discussions, I’ve realized we Americans have a limited number of items directly created by God that we handle daily, but all of it was made from something God originally created, even if we’re just talking about chemicals.
Why didn’t He create fully developed houses or vehicles that grow out of the ground? Why didn’t He make different sizes and styles of shirts, pants, and robes growing and hanging from trees for us to choose from when we need clothing? Why did He leave us the tasks of creating and construction?
I’m sure there are many reasons, but three come to my mind–three reasons that reveal aspects of God’s character. One I’ve written about before in different ways, here and here. I believe God lets us create because He wants us to know Him better by letting us take part in His own nature. He is a creator, so He lets us create. This is just one part of being made in His image. Just as I would be excited to find one of my kids joining and enjoying cross country running someday, God loves to see us doing what He loves. We can have a better bond with Him when we understand that part of Him.
Another reason I was struck by today is that He wants to partner with us. He gives us gifts, and He wants us to use those gifts to make something useful or beautiful or both. At first this doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. I know He’s a good God who likes to give us gifts (Luke 11:13). Then I stop and think about the idea of God, who can create whatever He likes whenever He likes, who has sovereign control over all, letting us take part with Him, as if He needed us to do so. He wants us to do our part. It’s one of the reasons He lets us pray. He could easily heal a wife with cancer, find the right job for that friend’s husband, or give courage to a child who needs it, but He wants us, the ants He calls valuable that we are, to do it with Him.
Third, can you imagine the kind of patience He has to let us enact our attempts at construction instead of just doing it Himself? Can I emphasize that even our best attempts at building are flimsy in comparison with what God can do? Without even going into the intricacies of the human eye or the elegant simplicity of the water cycle or the complexity of quantum physics, just take the time to look closely at a flower. Photographs can’t do flowers justice–the delicate softness of the petals, the variety of scents, and the way they draw life from the plant in order to lift their heads high all make them far better in person than even the best camera can capture. “Consider the lilies…I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these” (Luke 12:27). No clothing made by human hands compares. Our best architecture can never rival the Himalayas. Our best mechanics can’t come close to the muscular and skeletal structure of a cheetah.
However, God gives us basic elements and lets us create. I think the third reason for this is that He wants us to learn and grow in the process. As a parent, I know if I do everything for my children, they will never learn. It sure is easier and faster to do it for them. In fact, I’ve been clothing my three year old way too long because it’s been easier, but the obvious fact hit me recently that I have to make him do it, or he will never learn on his own. The key word here is “make”. Just as JP won’t put his own clothes on if he doesn’t have to, if God did everything for us, most of us would never bother to create on our own.
The majority of us don’t build houses, so what’s the point here? The fact that God gives us basic materials and wants us to use them for something else can be applied to so much more than houses. What gifts of teaching, encouragement, healing, prophecy, serving, leading, giving, or showing mercy do you have? How does God want to partner with you in these gifts? How can you build up the gifts you have into something beautiful for God’s glory?