Martin Luther’s short catechism begins with the phrase, “I believe God made me.”
The man who rediscovered Christianity (at a time it was thought worth finding) might have announced his belief in God’s act of universal creation. He certainly believed God made it all, makes it all, keeps it all, redeems it all. When he sat to write his succinct opinion for teaching creation, Luther wrote, “I believe God made me.”
Contemporary Christianity does well to spend time and effort disputing the accidental or coincidental genesis of the universe. Our culture has stopped questioning religious people about creation, instead, now, simply ignoring faith assertions, to insist all that is comes to be from nothing and will finally return to nothing, meaning, one thinks, physical reality means nothing along the way.
I think Christians (and other religionists) spend too much effort and energy trying to prove Genesis 1 and not quite enough time on John 3. This may not be Luther’s intention as he begins his shorter catechism. I do believe we would better speak to our day if we start with God’s creation one person at a time.
That is, the assertion “I believe God made me,” gives its speaker a special place of honored privilege with God, as well as a meaningful point of personal responsibility toward God.
So, our first question really is six words long. Do you believe God made you?
If I believe (I do) God made me, what does this imply about a good life? How would a good life look, if God made me?
If God made me, I am responsible to do my best, but I cannot pretend that my best effort is anything more than a pretense. You know, when we declare we are just doing the best we can do, we imply there are many, many others who do much worse. Our poor, pitiful, abused world cannot muddle on much longer with its huddled masses just trying to do our best. We must start to behave as if God made us, one at a time, you and me and you and you and on and on.
Our best is insufficient.
We are scarred.
A human life wears a lot of scars.
The first decade and a half I tried to write every day, it was my practice to linger over the next day’s offering, written out in long hand. I slept with it. Each morning I rose early, rewrote the piece and then put it on screen, hunched over a keyboard, bony fingers flying.
Then I wrecked my truck, broke my neck and destroyed my right hand. The bones were shattered just where the fingers rise into the knuckles. The flesh was torn loose. The skin was peeled back to the top of the hand. A skilled surgeon pulled the skin back down and stitched it to hold. To this day, of all the injuries from that wreck, my hand hurts most. To write for an hour long hand serves as a painful reminder; my right hand went through a windshield. A very good doctor did his best to help me. The damage was severe. The scars remain, red hot with pain when overused.
It will be like this from now to the end of my earthly life.
God made me. I marred myself. The best I can do to put it back together will not suffice.
I still have to try.
Since I cannot write, since keyboards hurt, since my thought processes are still tactile (my generation) I find myself trapped in the trying, I now have to take the story one person at a time. I admit to some discouragement.
Then, I re-read Luther’s short catechism (no, I do not watch much television). I saw old Martin’s words, “I believe God made me.”
If (since) God made me, the best I can do in my scarred and broken condition, while insufficient, is God’s persistent requirement. There is too much need around me for me to simply say, “I try my best until the pain gets too much.” Our best is not satisfactory. Someone better, something better, the best God can do; that is what a good life looks like.