An honor you can’t afford to miss

DSCN3604Have you ever wished you could have been present at creation, watching as God spoke the stars into being and stooped to shape the first human from dust?

I can’t think of an honor much greater than being witness to creation.

I’ve tasted the joy of witnessing creation in my work as an obstetrician, delight in it still as I watch the life of God take shape in the hearts and lives of those with whom I’m honored to walk.

But I’m starting to see that that there is a greater honor and joy than being witness to creation. And that we’re given it.

The thought is so startling at first I want to run away from it. If this honor wasn’t given, my claiming of it would be the worst of pride, a horrendous affront to the one Creator God. But I’m learning that I can’t outdream God. When something seems too incredible to be true, the problem is often that I’m seeing through my too small human perspective. So here it is:

We are invited to be co-creators with God.

I’m grateful for Jeremy Begbie’s reminder: “All good theology is done on the cliff-edge—one step too far and you tumble into idolatry, one step back and the view is never so good.”[1] If God has created us to be co-creators, we do not honor God by stepping back from the cliff edge; instead we miss seeing and entering the startling magnitude of God’s grace in making us not merely servants but sons, not merely stewards but co-creators.

Dorothy Sayers helps me begin to see the Biblical foundation for our position as co-creators by taking seriously the context of the declaration, “So God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). Since the only (or at least main) thing we’re told about God prior to that declaration concerns God’s creative activity,  “the characteristic common to God and man is apparently that: the desire and ability to make things.”[2]

J.R.R. Tolkien put it this way: “[W]e make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.”[3]

God’s creative act is always primary. His creativity bestows and blesses ours:

Where a man would make a machine, a picture, or a book, God makes the man that makes the book, or the picture, or the machine. Would God give us a drama? He makes a Shakespeare. Or would he construct a drama more immediately his own? He begins with the building of the stage itself, and that stage is a world—a universe of worlds. He makes the actors, and they do not act,—they are their parts. He utters them into the visible to work out their life­—his drama.[4]

We co-create in the world around us, through our writing, our gardening, our home decorating and designing of scientific experiments and mathematical proofs. But God invites us right to the top, allowing us to co-create that pinnacle of His creation: the human person.

  • God designs the shape of our noses and the size of our ears; he leaves us to map the pattern of our wrinkles as smile-lines or worry-creases.
  • God creates us with neurons able to make new connections; he gives us vast freedom to determine the shape of our brain pathways through what we focus on.[5]
  • God gives a certain initial form to our personality; he grants us immense power in the shaping of our character through our moment-by-moment choices.

God shapes our infant form; working together with Him, we have great input into who we become. Co-creatorship helps me make sense of the mystery reflected in Phil 2:12-13 “. . . work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

No matter how often I experience God’s love, the magnitude of this kind of love still surprises me—love that doesn’t hold back even the prerogative of creation but creates us to be co-creators with Him, co-creators even of our own selves.

I’m beginning to feel I’ll never find the limits of the truth spoken by Dr. J.I. Packer: Love is “the resolve to make the loved party great.”[6]



[1]Jeremy Begbie, Theology, Music and Time (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 279.

[2] Dorothy L. Sayers, The Mind of the Maker (New York: Meridian Books, 1956), 34. (I do think bearing the image of God is broader than this—we’re also given at least a hint of God’s relational nature in the words “Let us make humankind in our image—but Sayer’s point is well-taken that context insists that we take seriously the creative aspect of our image-bearing.)

[3] J.R.R. Tolkien, On Fairy Stories, p.18

[4]George MacDonald, The Imagination and Other Essays, 3–4.

[5] For an intriguing exploration of the extent to which our brains can change, see Norman Doidge, The Brain that Changes Itself.

[6] J.I. Packer, Systematic Theology A: Prolegomena, The Knowledge of God, Revelation and Creation, CD 18.


This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Sue Demmons

    This post so blessed me! I concur fully!

  2. Esme Stokhuyzen

    Wow! I have been blessed to have had a father who always said that we create because we are created in God’s image. However I have never thought/ realized that we are co-creators of ourselves……the person we turn out to be! thanks for sharing this lovely….and yet scary, truth!

    1. hearingtheheartbeat

      It can feel like a big responsibility, can’t it Esme? But you’ve given me a beautiful picture that helps me here. Remember when you let me help bake. . . what was it? . . .a pie or a crumble or something. You did all the standing parts for me and answered my questions about how to do the parts I wasn’t sure about but you let me get my hands dirty and enjoy learning and creating. It wasn’t an exam that I was thrown into to prove myself. You weren’t there criticizing but teaching and helping and setting me free to get on with enjoying being part of creating. And it was so much fun. (Thank you!) That picture gives me a lovely glimpse of God’s desire for us and attitude toward us in this co-creative process. It’s co-creative. The point is always relationship. God’s heart is always to set us free, not lay a heavier burden on us. And I need to keep being reminded of this, because I so easily step back into trying to lift a responsibility I was never meant to carry!

      1. momfan

        I LOVE this example (and this post that inspired it)! And thanks, Esme, for your mother-care away from home for my daughter, as I have fun sharing mother-love with others!

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