Made for goodness

imagesAdmittedly, I read a fair amount of books in a year. So, when one sticks in my mind and continues to provoke my thoughts, it moves to my mental list of “exceptional books” and I tend to talk to others about it. Recently I picked up Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s book, Made for Goodness: and Why This Makes All the Difference, written with his daughter, Rev. Mpho Tutu. What a compelling and inspirational book!

I was curious how Tutu might hold this view of goodness in the face of all the evil that he has seen and heard. Yet Tutu argues that, being made by God in his image, we are both attracted to good and outraged by evil. God holds us in life, and we can face evil squarely because we know that evil will not have the last word. We are lovable and capable of good because God has loved us since before eternity. The Tutus encourage us to live into the goodness that God has hardwired into us, as opposed to “doing good” out of fear that we are not doing enough to please God. One of my favorite quotes in the book is the following: “The invitation to Godly perfection, God’s invitation to wholeness, is an invitation to beauty. It is God’s invitation to us to be life artists, to be those who create lives of beauty.” (p. 48) In teaching, we have so many opportunities to be life artists, instruments of God’s goodness, impacting the lives of our students around us.

The Tutus do not deny the power and pervasiveness of evil. They recount personal experiences and the horror stories of other’s suffering. As the leader of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa to investigate apartheid era crimes, Archbishop Tutu heard stories reflecting the worst of human evil, yet is able to affirm that even in suffering, God sees and stands with us in all that we experience and endure in life.

I was struck by, and very appreciative of the Tutus’ description of forgiveness:

“We miseducate ourselves and our children with the trite phrase ‘Forgive and forget.’ Forgiveness is not a form of forgetting. It is, rather, a profound form of remembering. When we forgive, we remember who and whose we are. We remember that we are creative beings modeled on a creative God. When we forgive, we reclaim the power to create.” (p.150)

The authors remind us that we all long for goodness, for a return to Eden. They encourage us in closing to be much in prayer, to be listening for God’s voice: “God can help us choose, from among the plethora of paths that are spread out before us, the one that leads to flourishing.” To begin, we must see ourselves as God sees us, as the crown of his creation, created for his joy and beloved. This has implications for how we view others: “As we allow ourselves to accept God’s acceptance, we can begin to accept our own goodness and beauty. With each glimpse of our own beauty we can begin to see the goodness and beauty in others.” (p.198)

This book caused me to wonder if sometimes we focus too much on the shortcomings of ourselves, our students, our colleagues and allow ourselves to become negative, discouraged, cynical, and even bitter. The hard lessons learned in South Africa would point us in the direction of not ignoring the reality of evil, and certainly not letting it have the last word. We live in the hope of Eden and have daily opportunity to exude the goodness and beauty of our Creator, to image him and to celebrate it in other image-bearers before us.

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Filed under Biblical worldview, book, devotional, encouraging the heart, image of God, resources

2 responses to “Made for goodness

  1. Shirley VanBaak Martinus

    I was struck by, and very appreciative of the Tutus description of forgiveness:

    We miseducate ourselves and our children with the trite phrase Forgive and forget. Forgiveness is not a form of forgetting. It is, rather, a profound form of remembering. When we forgive, we remember who and whose we are. We remember that we are creative beings modeled on a creative God. When we forgive, we reclaim the power to create. (p.150)

    So true, and time to read Yancey on Grace, and Smedes, but more especially DeJong on Forgiveness.

    > The invitation to Godly perfection, Gods invitation to wholeness, is an invitation to beauty. It is Gods invitation to us to be life artists, to be those who create lives of beauty. (p. 48) In teaching, we have so many opportunities to be life artists, instruments of Gods goodness, impacting the lives of our students around us. >

    Part of an explanation of the life of an artist becoming an artist’s life: > Different arts use various media and diverse tools, but performance arts all use a person’s human body, too. Musical arts also use an instrument, but in performance the body is there and part of the art. Some use body and singing voice… Drama all the more so, using body and speaking voice only. Using one body to act like another. > But Jesus in a human body “acted like God” on earth in a human body — there was not just “overlap” between His “character” and his own self, as other actors may (or may not) have. There was one complete Self. And not just for the duration of the performance, but He stayed “in character” (so to speak) for his whole life-time…. Total Truth. > There are many examples of arts in the Bible, from the directions for the tabernacle.. to the many citations of clay work.. to the visions (dry bones, for one).. and etc., but Hosea is the only one I know of who was called to act out God’s message in a performance so long and life-consuming … until Jesus.

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