Thursday, February 5, 2015

Nonchalant With the Divine?

You’ve probably seen photos or replicas of the famous fresco painting, “The Creation of Adam,” that adorns the ceiling of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel in Rome. This meticulously conceived work by Michelangelo from the early 1500s is one of the iconic creations in the world of art.

Books have been written about this singular treasure. Art critics through the centuries have been enraptured by its beauty, as well as its profound emotional impact upon all who view it. Recently, someone drew my attention to an intriguing detail in this scene depicted from the book of Genesis.

One of the best-known sections of the painting represents the hands of both God and Adam at the moment of creation. God’s right hand appears to be reaching out in earnest, desperately seeking to touch Adam, the first man. Adam, on the other hand (literally), seems nonchalant, his left hand almost limp, displaying little exertion for reciprocating toward the Divine.

If a caption were written, Adam might well be saying something like, “Oh, hi. How ya doin’?”

Perhaps in Michelangelo’s mind, Adam was just awakening, groggily becoming aware of what was happening. So in that context, the less-than-earnest effort displayed for reaching toward God might be understandable. But it occurs to me that this must be how God views how we feebly approach Him at times.

If you’re a parent, you remember how eagerly we’ve been greeted by our children when we returned home from work or an errand. “Mommy, Mommy!” or “Daddy, Daddy!” they scream with delight, running toward us for a welcoming embrace. By the time they’re teenagers, however, that enthusiasm is usually gone. We walk into the room and all we get is a shrug or “Hey,” while they stay focused on the text they’re sending, a game on their tablet, or the TV show they’re watching.

Sometimes we’re the same as believers. Early in our walk with God, we’re all “Daddy, Daddy!” – or “Abba, Abba!” to use the correct biblical term. But as months and years in our spiritual journey wind along, our excited greetings degenerate into a casual wave. The effort to get ready to attend a worship service starts seeming like too much trouble. Even though we know it would be good to devote some quality time each day to prayer and studying the Bible, it seems there’s always something more urgent to address.

That’s why I often try to remind myself that unlike Adam’s depiction in Michelangelo’s masterpiece, I need to pursue the Lord as eagerly as He has pursued me. “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).

More and more it seems we’re living in a similarly “dry and weary land” where fervent faith isn’t “cool.” But that doesn’t mean it’s not important and shouldn’t be cultivated. Do we thirst and long for God, as the psalmist writes?

Taking a lackadaisical attitude toward our relationship with God, fired up only by the furnace of crisis and then soon cooled afterward, runs the risk of becoming like the church of Laodicea, described in the book of Revelation: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! Because you are neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16).

In other words, if the idea of spending time with God no longer lights your fire, check to see if your wood is wet!

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