Seven reflections based on a sculpture of the Creation of Adam from Chartres Cathedral in France. Available Grove ebooks.
The book is designed for group or personal reflection and prayer .
Here is an extract from chapter 2
The Unfinished Creation
‘In the beginning when God began creating the heavens and the earth. Gen 1.1
Look at the sculpture for a while. What do you see there?
adam (which means ‘earth creature’) is only half emerged from the dust of the earth. The sculptor, in his wisdom, has frozen the work of creation at mid point.
This human being is incomplete. Unfinished. He is becoming. Creation is in process.
adam is halfway between earth and heaven, halfway between being and non being, halfway between non-existence and life.
Is it significant that the sculptor should choose to express the work of creation at this moment – in the between-ness of things?
‘In the beginning…..’ Gen 1.1. At the bottom of this page in your Bible, you will probably find a note explaining that this verse can be translated in different ways.
‘In the beginning God created …’ can also read, ‘In the beginning God began creating’.
Both are true. God is the first source of life. Life began in him. But in Psalm 104, for example, this creating gift continues. ‘You send forth your spirit and life begins. You (ever) renew the face of the earth’. (v30 Jerusalem Bible). In this world we never reach an end to God’s creating life and vitality.
This sculpture is a meditation on the second translation. It is a work of creating that is continuing.
A passage in the New Testament takes this insight further:
‘See what love the Father has given us, that we might be called children of God; and that is what we are …. We are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is that when he appears, we will be like him, for we shall see him as he is.’ 1Jn 3.1&3
This tells us three things about our life in creation:
Life is Gift ‘see what love the Father has given us’
Life is Mystery ‘what we will become is not yet revealed’.
Life is Promise ‘we shall be like him’
Christ is the secret of our creation as well as our redemption. Being a human becomer means trusting to Jesus the secret of who we are becoming.
This picture hangs on the wall of my study above the considerable clutter and confusion of many unfinished things. I find it very affirming. It gives me permission to be unfinished.
There is no blame in this picture for a human being who has yet to ‘get it together’.
Rather, God is willingly involved in our continued emerging into life.
His presence is above, beside and breathed into this adam with gentle care and deep concentration.
But this is also an uncomfortable revelation.
The moment we receive the Gift and trust the Promise we also have to enter the Mystery of who we are. It has been said that Christ is the only truly human being, we are human becomers. We are unfinished. But we want to be finished products and with good reason.
This world is not a comfortable place for unfinished, incomplete, undefended people.
We quickly feel our nakedness. We are afraid and we learn to hide.
Out of anxiety and pressure we spend a lot of time carefully trying to look finished!
We never quite lose the fear that those around us won’t love and accept us if they saw the places where we are so naked, flawed and incomplete.
Not only does this sculpture affirm our incompleteness – and therefore our becoming – before God. It may also warn of us of the peril of pretending otherwise. Not only is our humanity unfinished and found in mystery – this is a vital part of the gift of being human.
‘Human beings need problems more than they need solutions. This is because we are beings with immortal longings and an indelible ideal and we suffer our greatest harm whenever, for a while, success sends us out believing that our ideal has been reached and our longing satisfied.’ John V Taylor
We are more alive as human becomers than as human beings.
Our incompleteness is part of the original gift of God in creation.
Look at the sculpture. Take time for this.
Imagine yourself in the place of adam. You are half born, vulnerable, unfinished – emerging somewhere between gift of life and dust of earth – not yet at home in either.
What thoughts and feelings do you have?
One way of reflecting on this may be to physically adopt the posture we see in adam in the sculpture. Kneel by a chair and lean your head on a cushion in prayer.
Where do you feel your incompleteness most?
Is it more gift or burden to you?
And God? What is God’s gift in this picture?