Thursday, January 14, 2010


Have you noticed how much separating happens in Genesis 1? God separates light from darkness, heavens from earth, land from water, and on it goes. In our culture today many people make God all about reconciliation, by which they mean that it doesn't matter if you're this or that, we should all get along. I'm all for getting along, but God is about relationship -- and relationships require good boundaries. So as God creates order out of chaos, he first creates separation.

A few years ago there was a popular book called Boundaries that spawned a series of sequels and workbooks and individual studies. These books were helpful to many, many people because when our lives are chaotic, one of the first casualties is that we fail to have good boundaries. Who I am and who you are gets blurred and I end up owning your baggage and you end up suffering for my mistakes. Boundaries help us have healthy relationships.

So what does it mean to have relationship? It means that heaven is not earth, land is not water, I am not you. But our eyes and our hearts are drawn to the places where what has been separated meets. We look to the horizon. We play at the beach. We adore images of lovers holding hands, lips meeting, a head on a shoulder, the electricity of eye contact. Even in the natural world, life is most abundant in the transition zone where one kind of terrain meets another. But in order for that to happen, the river needs to be different from the forest needs to be different from the prairie.

We don't necessarily like it when God separates things, because when he does he also names them. When God names me for what I am, it makes me a little uncomfortable. The truth can be hard to take. A professor of mine once said that the most offensive message the church can speak to the world is, "Your sin is forgiven for Jesus' sake." I've seen this myself -- the world's reaction is most often to indignantly say, "My sin? What do you mean, 'my sin'? Who are you to label me a sinner?" The message of reconciliation gets lost because the world is offended at being separated and named. We don't want to hear it.

I would like to believe lots of things about myself that are just not true. I would like to believe I'm right, I'm logical, I'm pure. But while these things may sometimes be true of me, often I am wrong, I'm irrational, I'm polluted. So when God speaks the truth about me -- whether he uses the voice of his written word in the Bible or the voice of my wife or the voice of my coworkers -- and about my separation from what I want to believe about myself, I cringe. But if I reject this word, if I refuse to see what is true about myself, I remain cut off from relationship with God and with others. If I refuse to recognize the boundary that fences me in, I can never come up against it in order to have relationship with anyone beyond myself.

In short, what God is doing in this act of separating and naming creation is an act of love. He creates the universe -- and you and me -- in such a way that we can come to the end of ourselves, where we can have relationship with that which is beyond us.

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