We are called to imagination, vocation, and connection
I always wonder if my Bible rants make sense to you, or if you secretly shake your head and think, “He’s nuts.” I confess I probably feel that way because you grew up in a Christian culture that emphasized very different portions of the scripture than those to which I’m drawn. I don’t disagree with the other emphasis, but I realize it can be disorienting to hear so much stress placed on something new.
I hope to clear up any strangeness here by reorienting all this Creation stuff back where it really belongs: to God.
Three features dominate the Creation narrative of cooperative work with God: imagination, vocation, and connection. The Creator creates creators (imagination) to perpetuate Creation (vocation) as his vice-regents (connection). I don’t really like that word—vice-regents—but it’s difficult to come up with a better word. It needs to remind us we’re connected to God—made by him to be like him—and also that we’ve been charged by God to do the things God does. We’ve got one, however—a word to describe how we resemble God without ever achieving equality with God.
The word is “shadow.” When God says he made us in his image, we can render “image” as “shadow.” I’m sure you’ve probably heard me say we’re shadowing God, but I’m not sure if I’ve done a good enough job of imbuing “shadow” with enough authority. But to be God’s shadow means we remind others of God, that when we’re at work in the world, God’s presence is felt and his authority is remembered.
These features of Edenic life—imagination, vocation, connection—are enticing, but one of the things you’ve always reminded me of is the danger of God’s good things distracting us from God himself. Yearning for God’s things without God is like yearning for sex without another person. It’s a perverse kind of pleasure-seeking behavior that asserts God is secondary to our desires.
God is both the source and the substance of imagination, vocation, and connection—just as he is the source and substance of faith, hope, and love. He is the way, the truth, and the life. We cannot separate God from God’s things and hope to experience that which made those things special in the first place.
Our only desire should be God, and when we get more of him, we ought to rejoice.
But it’s sometimes impractical to speak only of God. Sometimes we need a framework upon which to hang our thoughts, a means of understanding what God does and what God wants, how God works and where God has us aimed. So we parse the character and nature of God into components—not because God can be dissembled, but because he’s so far beyond our comprehension we need a little help figuring out what’s going on.
To say that the Creator created creators to perpetuate Creation is to say that God gave God’s people God’s gameplan in God’s place promising God’s blessing. In Eden, with the cultural mandate, God promised us an existence that was “very good.” In fact, the day God created humanity was the only day in the Creation account that was called very good, demonstrating that we are the pinnacle of Creation. The overarching experience of that Creation was unbroken wholeness between God, ourselves, others, and Creation.
We have a word for that, too. The word is shalom. Usually we translate shalom as peace, but to our modern ears peace too often sounds like the absence of conflict. Shalom is more than ceased violence, it is the result of God’s presence permeating throughout Creation, connecting us to him.
The engine of God’s gameplan is God—he gifted imagination, vocation, and connection to God’s people—and the more we invest ourselves in God for God’s sake, the more we will experience life as he intended.
I think you long for that life, as I do. And I encourage you to continue searching for God, as you have done so faithfully in the past. We yearn for something better than what we’ve got, but we work for something better than what we deserve, in anticipation of being whole.
 Genesis 1.26-27. Tselem is the Hebrew word for “image,” which we have previously translated as “idol.”
 1 Corinthians 13.13.
 John 14.6.
 Genesis 1.28.