Yep, that’s me. Kissing a sea cucumber a few days ago. Why? Well, there could be a lot of potential reasons I guess. The tour guide did tell me it would bring 7 years of good luck. Or perhaps I had said something insensitive to my wife-where my kisses are typically directed-and was getting desperate. Or maybe I happen to know something about sea cucumbers that you don’t!
But I would say the true answer is none of these. I kissed that thing just because I could and then did (although I should revisit this in 7 years to see if it really is that easy to get good luck!). I can’t recall any rationale for my decision, a precedent to push me toward it, or any physiologic or biochemical impulse in my brain that would lead to my slimy smooch. The choice came before me, my free will said why not, so I resolved with tenacity to do something original. And you can’t disagree unless you’ve kissed a sea cucumber too!
But this is nothing new to you. You may not cozy up with echinoderms too often, but I’ll bet 7 years of good luck you’ve freely chosen to do something just as unique for no better reason than you could. I’d even go so far to say that such originality is among the most defining characteristics of humanity-to tenaciously innovate, whether or not it makes sense, has been tried before, or would ever be predicted from one’s past endeavors. Even the most intelligent animals don’t demonstrate this sort of free-willed pursuit of newness or escape from patterns of behavior. Only humans.
Why? Sure, such determined innovation leads us to technological advances, but it also leads to horribly creative destruction of every type (including the non-propagation of one’s genes), so it cannot simply be explained as an evolutionary benefit. The concept of a self-conscious, free-willed being is not something that science has even approached explaining, and perhaps there’s a very good reason for that.
No other earthly creature clearly demonstrates humanity’s apparent free will, but God does. And strange though it may seem, both the potential for good and evil that tenacious originality bestows on humans can be explained very well by God’s own freely-willed choice to create us that way. In the Bible, humans are made in God’s image, but we don’t often stop to consider specifically what that means. What do we have in common with God but not with other creatures to grant us image-bearing status? In the context of Genesis 1-3 where this status is bestowed, it’s clearly the ability to choose freely.
And what a choice it was. THE choice in fact. The only one that ultimately matters. The choice to know only God’s goodness or to tenaciously pursue something original and different, which could only be what is other than God and his goodness: sin, evil, and ultimately hell. Humanity’s choice to add to its knowledge of good the knowledge of evil (see Genesis 3 for details) and taste its fruit has resulted and continues to result in the education of evil we all unfortunately experience. But before we object to God’s choice to give us a choice, consider the alternatives.
God could have either not created us at all or created us with no originality, no ability to escape pre-programmed behavior, no free will. Sure he could place us all in heaven then, but only as a forced extension of his own will. His goal for each of us has always been to reach out for him and find him in perfect community. That’s what heaven is. Reaching out for and finding himself through human finger puppets is not communal for him and certainly not heavenly for us, since there would be no “us” to enjoy it!
For all of its risks, humans need free-willed tenacious originality to freely choose God. Yes, that does mean that sin, evil, and hell become possible, but the heaven of perfect community with God is impossible otherwise. (Click to tweet)
When my wife turned 31 (I’d say 29 for her sake, but the story won’t work if I do), I employed my tenacious originality in a way that is probably more romantic than kissing a sea cucumber. Probably. I went to Baskin-Robbins, got one scoop of all 31 flavors (that woman loves her ice cream!), stuck a candle in each one, and lit ’em all up! True, the window of enjoyment before massive meltage occurred was narrow, but she knew that my act of innovative love (other years were less original, I admit) was just that: mine. Not some Hallmark card-writer’s words, not someone else’s idea, but my own free pursuit of more intimacy with her.
So be tenacious, be original, but do both for the purpose they were given to you: to choose the heaven you were created for with the God who wants you to find him. (Click to tweet) He is not far from you (Acts 17:26-27).
In any case, don’t waste your tenacious originality on sea cucumbers; I got no love from that one, free-willed or otherwise!
To explore God’s interesting choice to create free-willed humans and how that can ultimately make so much sense of difficult questions of faith, check out my book series Healing Hereafter (download whatever part you want free and direct here!).