Children with Broken Toys

broken toys

My oldest son loves big cats. He knows everything there is to know about every breed of tiger, panther, or lion. When a school report is due, he will finagle his way into reporting on the sad destruction of the Siberian tigers, the fate of the endangered big cats, or the hunting patterns of African lions. He is obsessed with carnivorous beasts.

To his everlasting disappointment, we purchased a dog as our one and only pet. If he had had his druthers, we would have bought a baby tiger, raising it in our cul-de-sac to be a ferocious killing machine. “Tigers are awesome because they’re carnivores,” he reasons. “But Mocha just eats dog food.”

While his love affair with all things carnivorous can be a bit tiresome (“No, Cyrus, you are not a carnivore,” I have said on multiple occasions), I find his affection for the animal kingdom endearing. In fact, it reminds me of the first, and eventual, calling given to humanity: “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’” (Genesis 1:28) My son’s love for big cats is an echo of the task which God first gave humanity – the wise care of the earth and the tender governance of the animals.

The world was made for us, but we brought death into it.
The anonymous author of the ancient Letter to Diognetus put it like this: “For God loved men, and made the world for their sake, and put everything on earth under them. He gave them reason and intelligence, and to them alone he entrusted the capacity for looking upward to him, since he formed them after his own image.” There is a terrible beauty in the ponderance of our first, failed mission. The world was made for us, but we brought death into it. What deep sadness, simultaneously rich and empty, overcomes my soul as I reflect on this.

In his song Saturn, Ryan O’Neal of Sleeping at Last captures this melancholy well. The story of the song, as I understand it, is about the relationship between a father and son. The father has passed away, and the son is reflecting on the things he learned from his dad. The song is about the distance we experience not only in our relationships, but also between ourselves and creation. You can read an excerpt of the lyrics and listen to the song below.

I couldn’t help but ask
For you to say it all again.
I tried to write it down
But I could never find a pen.
I’d give anything to hear
You say it one more time,
That the universe was made
Just to be seen by my eyes.-Saturn by Sleeping at Last

God’s original plan was for human beings to be the wise and gracious rulers of creation. We are supposed to be kings and queens. All of creation, from the tiniest insect to the most glorious constellation, was made for us. The beauty of the mountains is yours. The wonder of the ocean is yours. The sun and moon, the wind and trees – all of this is yours! Genesis 1 tells us that God made everything before he made humans, and if the theories of modern science are correct, then we can imagine that God spent billions of years crafting the cosmos to be the perfect gift for his crowning achievement, men and women bearing his image. And in a matter of days, we ruined it. Like an unruly child the day after Christmas, we have destroyed our father’s precious gift.

We don’t think about this enough. We don’t consider the heights from which we have fallen, or the majesty which God had intended to bestow upon us. The glory of Genesis 1 has become lost to us in our vain attempt to ascertain the exact date when the earth was created. How can we hope to answer the When before we truly grasp the gravity of the Why? We are kings and queens, deposed from our thrones, robed in gloom. We are children with broken toys.

We are kings and queens, deposed from our thrones, robed in gloom. We are children with broken toys.
This is beautiful. This is terrible. We have broken our gift, but it is we whom God is repairing. He is restoring us so that we can restore the cosmos. As the apostle Paul proclaims in Romans 8, “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” The cosmos is waiting for us to be revealed, for the children with broken toys to be made right, so that all of creation can be brought into the freedom we have been given in Christ.

For now there are pieces of broken toys everywhere. Earthquakes, disease, violence, death. Things are not as God intended them to be, but some day they will be. God will make us right, and then he will recommission us to rule creation with wisdom and grace. One day, the spark of affection my son has for big cats will burst into a fullness of friendship that we cannot yet understand. As the prophet declared long ago,

The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them…
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

Some day, Cyrus, you will have your tiger. But he probably won’t be a carnivore.

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