Two sides of creatureliness

For quite some time I’ve really appreciated the idea of creatureliness.  I’m not sure where I first heard the term;  I don’t recall ever seeing the idea discussed in print, though I suppose I may have–my memory is not the best.  However, I DID see the word this morning as I was reading The Holiness of God by R. C. Sproul (a good book–I recommend it).  He has some good thoughts about the idea of creatureliness…some of which I had not previously considered in the way he does.  In fact, I would sort of say that, while I had previously understood one aspect of creatureliness, he presents a different but very important way of thinking about this concept.  Here, then, is a brief discussion of creatureliness, in two parts.

Part 1 (the part of creatureliness I previously understood):

God created all things in the way that He chose.  When created things (i.e. creatures) live according to the way He designed, we not only bring glory to Him but also find blessedness, peace, and fulfillment.  One way we live according to God’s design is by flourishing and growing in the places He puts us and the ways He tells us we should.  For instance, we can:

  • pursue wisdom

  • pursue the knowledge of Him

  • pursue spiritual growth

  • be fruitful and multiply

  • love and serve others

  • be creative

  • MANY more!

Another way we live according to God’s design is by accepting–even embracing–our limitations.  This means that we can bring glory to God and rejoice in doing things that we might not otherwise think about in that way:

  • going to sleep on time and resting our bodies properly (side note: C. J. Mahaney’s book Humility: True Greatness has a brief but very good discussion of this.)

  • stopping work for rest, food, and of course worship

  • taking care when we are sick

  • not trying to take on more work than we can handle, and not thinking of our work as over-important (i.e. limiting self-imposed stress)

In these ways, recognizing and embracing our creaturely status can help us to live well in the ways that God intended for us.  It brings Him glory because by doing these things, we demonstrate that we recognize His wisdom in giving us all that we need for life and godliness. It brings us peace because we are rejoicing in what God has given us to do, and not attempting to reach beyond our limits.  (Of course, I do not mean we must settle for complacency and mediocrity!  We can reach far, and pursue true human greatness while still recognizing the bounds of our humanity!)  There are a variety of exciting implications for recognizing and living according to our creaturely status.    

Part II (another side of creatureliness):

After reading Sproul, I think the above understanding of creatureliness, while important and correct, is just a little bit too one-sided.  Even though it acknowledges God as creator, it focuses on us:  what we do (or should do), and why we can rejoice in our limitations.  Yet our understanding of creatureliness should begin not with the creature, but with the Creator.  Sproul writes:

…the clearest sensation that human beings have when they experience the holy is an overpowering and overwhelming sense of creatureliness.  That is, when we are aware of the presence of God, we become most aware of ourselves as creatures.  When we meet the Absolute, we know immediately that we are not absolute.  When we meet the Infinite, we become acutely conscious that we are finite.  When we meet the Eternal, we know we are temporal.  To meet God is a powerful study in contrasts

 

Being reminded that we are creatures is not always a pleasant thing.  The words of Satan’s original temptation are hard to erase from our minds. “Ye shall be as gods” (Gen. 3:5, KJV).  This ghastly lie of Satan’s is one lie we would dearly love to be able to believe…

Death reminds us that we are creatures.  Yet as fearsome as death is, it is nothing compared with meeting a holy God.  When we encounter him, the totality of our creatureliness breaks upon us and shatters the myth that we have believed about ourselves, the myth that we are demigods, junior-grade deities who will try to live forever.  (R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, 2nd edn.  Tyndale, 1998, 54-55)

Thus, understanding God and His holiness implicitly makes us understand our creatureliness.  This is good and right–but not easy!  It is easier, I think, to start with our lack and then think about ways we can excel.  Yet when our focus is on God, it still brings the peace and joy of creaturely living that I described above in Part I–but, I would say, it brings that peace and joy more fully because the joy is not in our life, but in God’s power and our participation in His plan for all things.I am sure there is more to be said about creatureliness.  But perhaps this is a good start.  May God grant that we see His holy transcendence and have a correct estimate of ourselves in comparison–nevertheless rejoicing because He has bountifully given us His favor and an inheritance forever with Him through His Son.

Who can compare?

Yesterday was a wonderful day. . .so wonderful that I’ve had a hard time deciding which was the REAL highlight of my day: reuniting with some of our church family from South Carolina, hearing RC Sproul and Mark Dever speak, or noticing some lilies of the valley (our wedding flowers) blooming out my window!!

lilies.jpg


Jeremy and I have been married 12 years and I’ve tried growing these flowers before, and it has just never worked. We’ve lived seven different places, and this location is, by far, the worst location of those seven, when it comes to nature (we are in the city in a tiny apartment). But outside my little kitchen window I can see a mass of these beautiful flowers, just growing wild on a CLIFF pushing through wild ivy and other stuff!  It feels like a special gift straight from the God who made me and knew I would see it as a personal gift from HIM (Matthew 6:25-34).  RC Sproul and other great men spoke to over 7,000 people today, BUT God, HIMSELF speaks straight to me. . . how can that compare???  My heart worships more humbly tonight.

The Necessity of Trials

As I have lately been studying, meditating, and teaching on spiritual comfort, questions regarding the reasons for trials and troubles (whether big or small) have repeatedly surfaced.   As I have searched out answers, one question has occupied my thoughts more than others:

How much does our sinful pride necessitate trials and troubles in our pursuit of Christ-likeness?

In other words, how successful would we be in putting pride and self to death if we did not have trials and troubles to attack our pride, humble us, and drive us to God for help and comfort?Thomas Charles (a preacher in North Wales in the 1770’s) writes:

The cross, which we must expect to meet daily in the way, will hurt nothing but sin and self:  and surely we would not wish to spare them.  I hope it is our happiness to think, that God is against them, and has determined their destruction in his own way.  Blessed be the Lord, there is a world where righteousness only dwelleth, and where sin and self shall no more trouble us for ever!

I don’t know about you, but I do not often meditate on the necessity of trials in life.  But it does make sense.  If trials were not needful for His people, God would surely not cause or allow them.  He does nothing without reason and He does nothing that is not for the good of those who love Him.  So although they can be grievous and heart-rending, sometimes to the extreme, I am thankful for trials, not only because they do indeed “hurt” sin and self, but also because they drive us to God, who is the God of all comfort, and there is no better place to be than utterly and totally dependent upon Him! (2 Corinthians 1)

Cockroaches on My Porch: Humility Lessons from Louisville

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
-Proverbs 11:2

This week our family moved to a new city for my husband to attend seminary and are living in family on-campus housing.  What this means for us is close quarters, close neighbors and a new peer group: future pastor’s wives and future pastor’s children ALL AROUND US! 

As much as a I pray about it and speak scripture to my heart and mind, I struggle constantly with prideful thoughts of what OTHERS think of me, my children, especially as first impressions are made.  Of course, I’m concerned about the little earthly carnal things, and in a stroke of sovereign good humor, God ordained a mortifyingly humiliating experience (to bring low the pride, as in Isaiah 23:9.)

As I unpacked a box of photo albums in our apartment on the first day, a “Palmetto Bug” tried to come out (for those non-South-Carolinians, this is a two-inch cockroach that SC has given a nicer name!)  In panic, I pick up the box and RUN outside, slamming it down on our little porch!!  The box is closed, so the cockroaches don’t come crawling out.  As I set the box down, I look up and Jenny* and Whitney* my new neighbors were sitting in my yard only feet away from my porch, talking and watching their children play.  I have an inner dialog with myself, as I say “hi” to the neighbors and frantically try to think of a graceful way out of this.  

I can’t take the box back inside, and I can’t just tape it back up and throw it away - not with photo albums in it, maybe I could take it around the apartment unit and open it out back - no, one of the roaches might crawl out onto me. . .I can’t just wait around, hoping they would go back inside - they told me just a few hours ago that they practically live outside when the weather is nice like this! I had no other option, I had to accept this lesson and be HONEST with them and tell them what was going on.  No secrets in seminary housing, I guess.  I told the ladies what was happening so they wouldn’t freak out.  They were very calm, telling me how to get a hold of the exterminators on campus, then stayed in their lawn chairs as I opened the box and stomped on and sprayed the cockroaches that came out.

Humbling?  Yes, without a doubt!  Good for my heart?  Yes, yes, yes!  If I’d rather hide the box of cockroaches and not let another sinful human know they were in my house. . .how much more absurd it is that I try to justify and hide the cockroaches of sin (pride, for example) that come crawling out - before a perfect and holy God?

I guess it’s time I took my good friend’s reading recommendation: Humility, by Andrew Murray.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent