by Rob Tims
One of the YMCA campuses near my house has a tennis league, so for a little extra money on top of my family’s monthly membership fee, I play singles on Sunday afternoon and doubles on Tuesday nights.
This particular night was the first night for all of us to play doubles, but hardly anyone wasted time getting to know the other players. This was because they already knew each other. Questions about the health of parents and in-laws, stories of kids in college, and jokes about the size of bellies and the baldness of heads abounded.
But not toward me. I was the new guy.
I was also a few years younger and a good deal better than the other players, the latter of which instantly put me in the spotlight.
There’s a customary 2-minute break between every 2 games in tennis, and during these breaks (11 of them over the course of the night), men peppered me with questions, attempting to size me up.
“I can’t seem to place your accent. Where are you from?”
“Where did you go to college?”
“What do you do for a living?”
“Have you always been this slender?”
And on and on it went … the effort to size me up—to categorize me so that they could make sense of me.
We like knowing our origins. If we don’t know where we’ve come from or where we’re going, it’s really hard to figure out why we’re here. It’s kind of like we’re homeless … or at least lost … and life becomes confusing if not meaningless. It leads to depression or loneliness or alienation because we don’t know where we come from, where we’re going, or why we’re here.
This is in part why we Christians love the doctrine of creation so much. It tells us our origin.
Consider Genesis 1:26-30 from which we learn two crucial truths about human origin: we were made for relationship and stewardship.
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female.
28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”
29 God also said, “Look, I have given you every seed-bearing plant on the surface of the entire earth and every tree whose fruit contains seed. This will be food for you, 30 for all the wildlife of the earth, for every bird of the sky, and for every creature that crawls on the earth—everything having the breath of life in it—I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
You can easily see the themes of relationship and stewardship present in the passage, and you can also feel just how far we’ve fallen away from our perfect origin. Every relationship we have is broken to a degree, and as Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us about stewardship, “The reason why we fail to rule is because we do not know the world as God’s creation and do not accept the dominion we have as God-given but seize hold of it for ourselves.”
The story of my origin surprised many. What’s a small-town Southern Baptist from rural Mississippi doing in Middle Tennessee? And the means by which he got here—you couldn’t dream up a more roundabout journey. Yet while I may have come a long way from my origin, I often refer to it as a means of making sense of my present and future. Such is the way we are to think of our human origin. We’ve fallen far, but in Jesus we are headed toward restoration, and by looking back we can see where we are going. We can see relationships restored and humans stewarding the earth under the reign of King Jesus.
Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.