Cain counterfeited God’s gameplan
Dave and Rachel Buchanan are long-time Westwindies and brand new parents. I wrote this for them, that they might pass on the legacy of faith to their son, DJ.
I’ve always appreciated how you carefully invest yourself in faith and in the church. You’re a proud advocate of imagination, vocation, and connection—whether online or offline, in the city or in your neighborhood, at church and at home—but you never try to enjoy God’s things without God’s presence. You are a vessel, carrying God with you like a mother carries her unborn child.
I also appreciate how cautiously you observe others. I think you’ve got a gift for sniffing out phonies and pretenders, self-aggrandizing wannabes and hero-worshippers. I’m glad you’re cautious. I’m relieved. In our world, in your line of work, egomania has to be scrutinized.
Your life reminds me of Cain; rather, you make me think of what Cain should have done. He lived almost precisely the opposite way you do, and suffered as a result.
In the beginning, God gave God’s people God’s gameplan in God’s place promising God’s blessing, but they deviated from that plan and were expelled from Eden. Their children fought, and Cain murdered his brother Abel. He was then cursed to wander.
Cain made his home in Nod, the land of wandering. There, he did two things: he took a wife, creating a family, and founded the first human city, which he named after his son, Enoch. Cain thought he could reclaim Eden by doing what his father did, by fulfilling at least part of God’s mandate from the garden—multiply! But he was no closer to eternity as a father than he was as a moral failure.
Cain thought he could satisfy his divine calling by founding the city, but security was no substitute for peace. Immediately after the city was born we read about the development of the arts in the musicianship of Jubal, the tool-making of Tubal-Cain, and the creation of culture through architecture, agriculture, and technology. But in all these things Cain tried to develop God’s things without God. He absconded God’s gameplan for new people in no-place, achieving a counterfeit blessing.
In Hebrew, this city is called the “Watching Angel of Vengeance and Terror.” Clearly this city isn’t just a collection of houses, but a spiritual power. As has often been said, we shape our cities and then our cities shape us. Cain fled to the Land of Wandering, built a City of Terror in order to protect himself from the untamed wilderness, and tried to fulfill God’s gameplan without God, ever-mindful of God’s possible vengeance.
Cain could not escape God. Though fractured, the image of God still resided inside the boy from Eden, and he began to do the very things God wanted him to do in the garden. He worked. He created. He sought refuge. Cain knew he had received dominion over Creation, and he seized it by force. He was the first Dominator, the first pervert of our divine calling. He imposed his will over Creation. He did things to Creation, taking what he wanted and spoiling what is left.
Yet everything he found was fraud; everything he made was mistaken.
Cain spent his life in desperate search for security, “struggling against hostile forces, dominating men and nature, taking guarantees that appear to him to be genuine, but which in fact protect him from nothing.”
My prayer is that you continue to live as a missionary in your chosen field. There are too many Cains, and too many who have been deceived into thinking that God’s goods can be enjoyed without him. But not you. You’re holy. You’re good.
And I’m glad you’re my friend.
 Genesis 4.21.
 Genesis 4.22.
 Genesis 4.17-22.
 “iyr re’em.” See Ellul, The Meaning of the City, 9.
 Ellul, The Meaning of the City, 3.