A few years ago I went on a 15-day retreat at Loyola House in Guelph, Canada. One beautiful afternoon, I went on a 2-hour walk through the woods, along the creek, through a marsh. I had been praying a lot with questions about the connectedness, the interdependence, of life. As I walked and watched the birds and animals and insects and flowers – all of nature around me – my thoughts turned toward a theme of “cooperation and competition.”
I realized how our culture turns toward competition as the primary model for how we interact, not only with people but with all of creation. The stories of our lives – and the stories of TV, movies, books, songs, and commercials – are mostly about who “wins.” Who is the best, brightest, and most beautiful? The most profitable, most powerful, most popular? Who “dominates the airwaves” and “rises to the top of the polls”? Our language is filled with the metaphors of competition.
As I kept walking, I realized that God’s intention for creation was for cooperation rather than competition. The beauty around me came out of the reality of animals, plants, weather, time – and even people – working together in an entirely natural way. When I got to a particularly moist, damp spot in the woods, and the mosquitoes swarmed around me and settled on my skin to draw some blood, I did wonder about the “beauty” of cooperation. I did not feel particularly cooperative at that moment. Yet it was more their habitat than mine, and I departed quickly.
The Scriptures, especially in the New Testament, speak of a new age, a new creation, that God is bringing to reality. Through Christ Jesus, we are part of that new creation and called to help create this new age. The spirit of this age is cooperation and not competition, recognizing our interdependence rather than claiming an unreal independence, and connecting with one another and with all of creation through God’s Spirit.