God, it says in Genesis, created the world, the cosmos, the universe, and the interesting question is: what is the first thing He (speaking anthropomorphically here of course) does after the creation? Well, quite naturally, he does what I did on the birth of my son: I wanted immediately to look at him and then touch him. So it says that God saw – beholds – what he has done and comments on it: the creation is ‘very good’.
That’s great news because if you read the papers for long enough, or watch the news on TV for any length of time, you’d reach a diametrically opposite conclusion: that the world was very bad! And we need to remind ourselves periodically that the media exists, like most journalists and most politicians, in order to preserve the status quo by instilling fear in people. Indeed, they do this easily because most of them are congenital liars and they refuse to witness to the goodness of the world. What we see, for example, in the human face divine, or in the beauty of nature, or in the love or fellowship we have with others – all this good surrounds us, and yet all we hear is bad news and people seeking to put even worse ‘spins’ on badness.
Putting that aside, however, and returning to the words of God: they are interesting also for what God did not say, but could have. Why, for crying out loud, did God not say as he observed creation in its first moment of existence that it was ‘perfect’ – not just ‘very good’, but perfect? Would it have been that difficult for God to have made a perfect world first time round? After all, nothing is too difficult for God, according to the scriptures.
I work as a consultant and coach and have dealt with hundreds of people. Often I find myself sharing a favourite mantra with them when I find they are stuck in a certain way. For example, I have lost count of the number of women and men in their forties, still unmarried, still trying to suggest that this is a good thing (no flies on them, free and easy), but who at root are still waiting for the perfect mate. Yes, the perfect mate: they live in fear of making a mistake. And let’s be frank – mistakes are costly. But then never having had that partner by the time you reach your end is surely going to seem like a mistake too?
And then there are those stuck in dead-end jobs, waiting it out for the pension or the redundancy package. They won’t step out to do what they have always wanted to do – at least they won’t until the circumstances are ideal – perfect in fact – meaning, there is no risk at all. And then there are those who won’t ride a bike because they can’t be Bradley Wiggins or won’t start playing a piano because they’ll never surpass Glenn Gould. So it goes on. See what I mean?
The mantra I teach is simply this: "Perfection is the enemy of progress". If we wait until everything is right before we act, then we will never act and we will always fall short of what we could have been, or could have done, or could have enjoyed.
Thus it is that God made the world ‘very good’ and for a very good reason: so that we can make it better. And we also have a responsibility to make our own self better. This is the challenge of this world. If it were perfect, what would there be to do? How would we come to stretch ourselves and know more fully our potential? In a very real sense God does to us what we do to our own children – if we really love them. Namely, enable them to develop and be autonomous creators of their own worlds.
Atheists are always pointing out the imperfections of this world and blaming God – if God really were there, they like to say, He could – being all-powerful – have done a better job – made a perfect world. Yea, right – no, it’s better this way: ‘very good’ and we all on course to improve it further and as we do so to feel the growth within ourselves.