For years, I and my family have been able to visit my aunt’s home in the resort community of Hilton Head during the summer. My aunt’s family lives in a prototypical planned community, with strict building codes, paved bike trails, multiple golf courses, private beaches, and limited access (i.e., a gate). The whole community is a paragon of modern order.
A few weeks ago, I visited Cumberland Island with some friends. The Island itself is very similar to Hilton Head, with roughly the same climate, geography, and ecosystem. But that’s where the similarities end. Cumberland Island is entirely deserted. Visitors must arrive by ferry and then fend almost entirely for themselves. Raccoons invade campsites at night looking for food; human-made trails intersect with a set of trails blazed by the island’s feral horses. On the surface, Cumberland seems like the complete opposite of Hilton Head, a paragon of primal disorder.
But in reality, both Islands are just different expression of order. The “wilderness” of Cumberland Island is painstakingly persevered by the National Park Service. The NPS designates certain places to cross from the beach to the island center in order to preserve the sand dunes; the magnificent ruins of an old Carnegie mansion have been blocked off in the name of preservation. Cumberland Island is a wilderness, but it is a wilderness that is protected and maintained.
So maybe you don’t find the concept of the social construction of wilderness as interesting as I do. There’s a bigger point – namely, that there are different ways of “ordering” the world around us, even ways that appear at first glance to be completely contradictory. Ordering things is another facet of creating things, and creating things is what our God does.
God created our world, and though it’s broken now, he’s going to recreate it. By creating or making or ordering things, we act out the image of God, the thing that makes us human. And great thing is, not all the things we make have to look the same. Planting a garden is an act of creation, but so is mowing a lawn. Building a shed is creation, but so is adding a new coat of paint. All the little things we do during the day – cleaning our rooms, washing the dishes, taking the trash to curb – are acts of cultivation, maintaining the order of the world we’ve created.
Of course, we can be more creative. We can paint a picture, or repurpose some old junk, or write a post for the church blog (anyone?), or just make a memory with our spouse or our kids or our good friends. The temptation to kick back and be passive – to binge on hours of TV or click through pages of random Internet lists and GIF blogs – is greater than ever during the summer. Let’s not give into the temptation. Let’s keep making stuff. Our God creates and re-creates, so when we’re scattered around the city during the week, let’s give him glory by doing what he made us to do: getting up off our butts and making something.