Like many kids, when I was young I went through a stage of having horrible nightmares. There was nothing dramatic or traumatic happening in my life yet every night I would be terrified by horrible images that made me scared to close my eyes. After several weeks and very little sleep, my mother wrote Proverbs 3:24 onto a piece of paper which she hung next to my bed. The Proverb reads: “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” While it would be tempting to think the scripture worked as some sort of talisman, it did help guide my late-night thoughts away from impending nightmares which consequently helped them stop. Now, several decades later, its thoughts of what I may have to face in my waking life which disrupts my sleep and I still reach for that verse to guide me to images of a hard -working Creator with mud on His hands and face.
When my mother posted the Proverb on my wall I knew nothing about the book nor the wise king who wrote it. I did, however, know the story of God stepping onto the earth, scooping dirt and sculpting it into a human. I imagined the scene quiet but for the unnamed animals learning their bodies and their world, brand new stars twinkling it in a clear, unpolluted sky, the world dark but for the tiny light from a newborn sun. When pleased by what He has fashioned, God bends down, placing His mouth on this dirt creation and breathes life into its lungs. God chooses to give a piece of Himself to bring the creation to life. God names him Adam, which means “from the earth”. Created by dust, to that same dust Adam will return. Life is continual, organized messiness.
While many people get caught up in debates about whether or not this is a literal account of how people came about, I love the depiction of God being so tender and willing to get dirty. Unlike the rest of creation which He supposedly spoke into being from a distance, with us the work is hands on, each detail intentional. At night, when it’s so easy for the dark bedroom to be filled with things left undone, things I could have done better and the endless times when I should have kept my mouth shut, I remind myself of the Proverb and the creation story in Genesis. As my breathing grows shallow I remember that our breath is an invitation for new start, direct from God’s own lungs, direct from the mouth that spoke the world into existence. As we inhale, we can fill our lungs, our blood, our muscles, even the cells we leave behind as dust, with God’s goodness and creativity. As we exhale, all the yuckiness that taunts our tomorrow can be released and embraced by other organisms that somehow need it for their inhale. Intricately dependent and independent, God is deliberate in making creation harmoniously chaotic.