The other day, riding the bus to Heathrow, I came upon this happy thought: “Even if I were to win the lottery, I would still quite readily show up for work each day.” I am remarkably content with my work at the moment, feeling as if my job description was written exactly to match my abilities and interests, giving me a great degree of creativity.
Things have not always been this way. There have been long periods in life when I have answered the “lottery question” completely differently; had I won, I would have left my empty-handed employer muttering words not learned in Sunday School, no doubt.
Consider the lesson of poor Adam & Eve and their children:
Adam & Eve start out on a rather high plain of existence, made in the image of God, made to participate in the process of life going on all around them. Like you and me, they live life to the fullest when they are able to use their unencumbered freedom to be creative. Life to them is like a garden, as it were.
But then, by falling for a deception, their life takes a real knock. They make a major miscalculation and suddenly the garden existence they so enjoyed is gone. The scriptures use a new word for where they live: a “field”. And life in this field will be characterized by pain and toil. They’ve moved down a rung from a full, creative life to one of managing the hard-scrabble of mere existence.
Sadly, the descent from grace has not yet reached its nadir. Cain, the son, endures a further rejection, a further disgrace in his effort to live in the field; he suffers a new blow to his identity and lashes out with murderous anger. For this he is removed even further from his creative potential, ending up as a marked man, a “restless wanderer on the earth.”
From the Garden, to the Field, to the Land of Nod (‘nod’ means ‘wandering’).
Isn’t this our story too?
We know we are at our best when life gives us the opportunity to live to our creative potential, using our unique talents and abilities to their full, fleshing out the image of our Creator. But before we know it, we take a false step, we believe someone’s lie, and we end up in a new place, a hard place where, though we give it our best effort, it seems we are only just managing to survive.
And we can sink further still. Many do. Another hard knock comes, another dent in our psyche, another rejection of what we have to offer, and we find ourselves having moved the final step away from creativity, to destruction. We abandon our intended destiny and begin to destroy lives, our own and others’. This is the place of despair, of burn-out, of violence and abuse. Our souls are restless and adrift.
If we are stuck living life in the Field or the Land of Nod, just managing life or downright destroying it, we need somehow to find a way to turn things around, to realize again the kind of life we were intended to live and which gives us the greatest satisfaction.
I remember the day when, deep into a long burn-out that saw me falling further into destructive behaviour, I realized I simply had to turn things around or I would destroy myself and my family. I had to “repent”, to use a misunderstood religious word. And that turnaround took a remarkably simple form to begin with: a long walk, every day.
My walks were a metaphor for an even longer journey, but I’m happy to be back.