A resolution-savvy devotion is yesterday’s by Ethan Richardson from The Mockingbird Devotional.

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7, KJV)

At the foundation of human life lies neediness. A Golden Smog song called “Think About Yourself” (from Another Fine Day) goes:

Every night you close your eyes / Your head is filled with alibis and rules to play,

Everywhere I turn I see the bridges / That you’ve burned just to be free again.

michael-jordan-barons-dugoutThis is so obviously a bitter-love breakup song, but it’s a breakup song with theological implications—the best kind of breakup song. I actually believe God wrote this song about me! All I do is think about myself, and it’s a surefire ending, just like the song forebodes: bridges burned, nowhere to turn, stuck on a road-blocked island of my own making. All because I thought the freedom I knew was the freedom I needed. I’m rescued time and again, without fail, yet it brings me to just one more chance to prove myself. I can do it, autonomously—watch!

I read a book by Henri Nouwen that talks about his experience working in a community of the mentally and physically handicapped. He describes a highly touted, upper-echelon type of career in academia, his unfulfilling success, and his move into a facility where his medals, keynote addresses, his qualified abbreviations, were a wash amidst the daily routine of feeding adults, cleaning soiled sheets, saying nothing. In retrospect, he describes that the experience “forced me to let go of my relevant self—the self that can do things, show things, prove things, build things—and forced me to reclaim that unadorned self in which I am completely vulnerable, open to receive and give love regardless of any accomplishments.” The Spirit moves not in our self-ordained notions of autonomy, but in our naked and common need.

This Genesis passage narrates the beginnings of people, and it’s a beginning that moves in the opposite direction of accomplishment and seclusion. At the very foundation of our existence lies the Gospel: the Spirit of God moves and breathes life into that which had no life before. It’s not a narrative of elemental potential or possibility—the Scriptures don’t depict a well-intentioned person with poor skills and bad tools suddenly given the tools for success. It’s instead the miracle of breathing dirt into life and “living soul” from existential nothingness. This is the beginning—that, as Nouwen says, “God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love.”