And so it begins.
Or so the story goes: In the beginning.
And like the good, little children we are, we begin there and go on.
My prayer assignments during Advent and Lent can come with some very heavy lifting of some concepts. It can feel like having one’s soul scraped. With a wire brush.
Nothing like a good cleaning, hey, Julia?
That anvil that invariably falls in there somewhere creates serious aftershocks.
This Lent the assignment set itself up as my study of certain beliefs I have about myself.
It’s always about me during these stirring parts of the church’s year. That’s how I know that it’s going to hurt a lot.
And then there was this strange clearing. A clearing with just me in it.
What do you want to say to me?
Like there’s an answer to such a question. What does one say to God?
But I pondered. Not noticing the shadow of the anvil creeping up behind me.
And then I blurted it out: I remember how traumatized I felt when I read through the Bible the first time.
It was as though I was questioning everything about God.
I could joke about it. But the laugh just isn’t there.
Everything in the Bible tells me that you are wrong.
There’s my deep-down belief: God is always wrong.
And so we begin.
At the beginning.
But just where is the beginning?
I have the kind of mind that wants to straighten everything out. Categorize things. Put them in their proper place.
I wanted to know where the seed of evil came from.
I was raised to believe that everything is God.
So, logically, that means that evil is God.
In some ways that idea never bothered me that much.
I figured that I would eventually understand that evil is just something of God that makes sense.
Not that it ever felt that way.
The profound desperation of evil. The compulsion to hurt another. As though another’s pain was a panacea for one’s own. I’ll take your blood to satiate my thirst.
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
How many are satiated by that sacrifice?
So I went to the beginning. Over and over and over again.
It had to be there somewhere.
The Good Snake.
Yes, fine. Even though no one I had ever read or listened to ever painted an accurate picture of what actually happened.
It’s the Fall! The Fall of Mankind!
What, I’ve always wanted to know, is a Fall?
Who raised us up in the first place?
So there we start.
She did it!
Our first communal lust for someone else’s blood.
Then, the other day, I saw what I have wanted to see for so long: the beginning of it all is just a distraction.
Like a car race, we sit with bated breath for the action to begin. And when it does, we cheer. And when Eve slides into a curve and crashes, we cheer.
And that’s where we remain as a religion: at the starting gate, watching the start and the crash, watching the bodies being carried off the field, over and over and over.
We don’t think about what was going on before the race.
We don’t ask about why the race was created in the first place.
And this is significant.
We don’t think about ourselves as being before creation. Accordingly, we resist thinking about ourselves after creation.
We accept birth. We reject death.
And yet life is really like going to dentist: you are a whole person before you go, and you are a whole person when you come out.
But we don’t see life that way.
And so it began.
It’s like a movie trailer: Lights! Darkness! Sea creatures! Grass! Look, a giraffe! Oh, and there’s the Snake!
Enter the stars of the show.
Naked, but somehow immune to prickles and mosquito bites. Needing nothing. Or having everything.
That’s has always been my favorite cocked-head response to the church’s teaching on this matter.
When and how and why was Eden perfect?
Anyway I keep stepping off the wrong curb here.
We’re supposed to be at the beginning.
So that we can get out there before the beginning.
What was before the beginning?
There was a decision by God to create.
That’s what was before creation: A God Idea.
I was a young woman when I began the lesson of Why (otherwise known to me as, The Last Lesson): we were created in order to experience.
Experience air blowing gently across our skin.
Experience controlling the movements of our bodies and calling it dance.
The list of experiences that we experience is infinite. And growing longer every second.
I took this lesson to heart when I began to study the New Testament and contrasted it with the Old.
And I saw it: how Jesus experiencing life changes the way God relates to humanity.
In the Old Testament, God sees us as unruly children and is continually working on a formula to get us under control.
But in the New Testament, God takes a step back and listens to his son. And his son’s ideas.
How people should be fed.
So many things that God couldn’t quite articulate before the birth of his son.
To Jesus, the blessedness of humanity was obvious.
He experienced the blessedness of humanity.
I think as Christians we forget that that was Jesus’s message. So many of us look instead for ways to condemn each other.
More lust of another’s blood.
So before the beginning, there was The Idea.
God’s Good Idea.
Then the idea had to take form.
And it did.
But in order for creation to be created, something else had to be re-created. Changed.
The nature of the universe before creation had to be remade by God.
A universe in which we all functioned as one was to be reshaped into a universe in which those on Earth functioned individually.
Reflecting on this I have come up with a definition of my own: the definition of divinity.
I now define divinity as the state of union.
When God breathed creation out and split everything apart – day from night, earth from sea, animal from plant, man from woman – we felt the loss of unity-divinity profoundly.
What was it exactly that tempted Eve? She yearned to be like God again. To restore unity to the universe.
Ironically, though she doesn’t realize this, the Snake defines her being like God as her knowing good and evil.
Good and evil.
Right there in the middle of the garden the whole time.
So much for the view that the garden was perfection.
And when God kicks the first separated human entities out of the garden, he quips that by doing so, he is depriving them of their ability to live forever by eating from the Tree of Life.
In a way, that was a gift to Adam and Eve. To live eternally separated is something no one really wants. To return to the state of divine unity is what we long for. Even if we don’t realize it.
The longing for unity against this mandated experience of life on Earth is expressed again quite quickly at the Tower of Babel.
A story of how people got together and said, Let’s unite. Let’s make our voice heard in Heaven. Otherwise we will be separated even more.
And they were.
And we have been searching for unity (or divinity) ever since.