Everytime I learn (or try to learn) part of scripture by heart it becomes a lens to seeing the world — and this is amazing at times, and mysterious, strange. Learning Genesis 1 (and a bit) is truly very difficult and yet the world (despite everything) appears more beautiful than ever. I was amazed driving home from work yesterday at how blue the sky is, how green this patch of evergreens was, how amazing to see a father walking hand in hand with tiny toddler son. There is so much more than just beauty going on in the world. But the beauty catches me by surprise because of my work on learning Gen 1 by heart.
I came across a recent Christian Century this morning, the July 18th issue, and an article by David Grumen discusses Jesuit scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. At the turn of the last century, in about the 1920s, Teilhard “thought that attributing all sin to a single historical act that might, in fact, not have occurred was grossly immature. And to defend a version of the doctrine of original sin that ignored the evidence of reason and experience diminished its deepest meaning.”
Yep. What he said. Not that I’m going on too far into Genesis 2 (at this time of my life anyway), but what a nice way to just have that clear and written out.
Rachel Held Evans’s book “Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again” — so far I have only read the Intro and the first chapter but they are excellent, perfect! As she writes so clearly — and go read her not me — every culture has an origin myth and the point of Genesis 1 is that our God created everything — and called everything Good. Including humans. How fantastic and wonderful is that?! How much better than being created to be slaves. How much better to have a world designed with joy and hope instead of war and fear, yes? I can’t wait to read more in her book.
Christian Century, again, had a wonderful essay by the amazingly brilliant Fleming Rutledge in the Sept 12 (2018) issue, “Why does God hide?” Rutledge writes, “God dwells in inaccessible light — light that we can’t directly look at. It’s uncreated light that emanates from God’s very being. This light was already there before God created the light that we see — [as the hymn says] ‘In light inaccessible hid from our eyes.’ ”
“God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light.”
I have heard this described as God being a verb, that there is no difference between God speaking something and God doing something. God is the “I am”. God verbs us all and everything to life.
But I never before realized that God is light, whatever that is and whatever Godself is, so far beyond our knowledge. So deep into mystery.
Finally, I was trying to tidy up my bookcases, when out fell Madeleine L’Engle’s book “And It Was Good”. I had completely forgotten that I even owned this book. It was published in 1983. On page 30, L’Engle writes, “The amazing thing is that at the beginning there was darkness, formless and empty, and the Spirit brooding, brooding almost as though getting ready to hatch creation, and then the Word shouting for joy, and here we are! The Word spoke, and from nothing came the glory and the music and pattern of a universe.” While L’Engle doesn’t seem to speak to my heart the way she did earlier in my life when a book falls off the shelf you better pay attention to it.
All of these writers are — as with me — not denying the “myth-iness” of Genesis, or denying evolution and science, or trying to twist everything into something that it isn’t. The Bible is a big messy book as full of boring begats and detailed sea voyages and genocide and rape and so on as much as it is full of beauty and hope and love and humor and talking donkeys and so on. These stories fascinate me and enrich my life and give me eyes to see the world in ways that otherwise I would be blind to. And to my surprise Genesis 1 (and a smidge) is everywhere! I find joy and surprises in dwelling on a story or a section long enough to learn it by heart, to have the words running in my mind as I fall asleep and at red lights and intermingling with my days.