God reached into the dirt, and kissed it. And suddenly, it was alive!
That first human was made in the image of God. It seems that it came with the breath itself.
I have been thinking about how Eve was made from Adam’s rib. And wondering how God’s image works through all of this.
It could be that God’s image was just copied into both of them.
But given all the stuff that is said about sex and marriage, and it seems like maybe a separate part of his image ends up in both of them. God’s image isn’t copied, it is broken in two, and Adam and Eve each get a part.
(This seems to connect with the second creation account, that occurs later in Genesis.)
Here’s the pretty amazing thing about this possibility:
It puts to bed all the talk about God as a ‘he.’ It locates the divine in the feminine and the masculine.
God the father and mother! So much more robust and liberating then just choosing one or the other. A pretty cool thing.
Those words? Perhaps the most powerful words in the English language.
I am here.
They are more powerful, I am learning, than “I love you.” They may just be more fundamental to who we are than ideas of home, or even of mother, and father. I suspect it is written into our deepest history.
I think that this is what the story of Adam and Eve is about. We began with this connection to our maker, to each other, and to ourselves. At that time, we could truthfully and fully say, “I am here.” We were naked and unashamed. We entered into the created world in this attempt to name things, to understand it. It was all good.
There is something different about the interaction at the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I suspect that the knowledge offered by this tree is something inferior to the learning that was happening elsewhere in the garden. Suddenly there is this hair-splitting and debate, going on. They are no longer in that moment, present. In their imagination they are comparing a future where they have eaten the fruit with a future where they have not eaten the fruit. To do this, in their memories, they are thinking about what the past has been like.
There are so many ways to not be here. There are so many forms of absence. So many ways to fail to be present.
I think ‘being here’ must mean a lot of things. I just barely have words for some of them. At the minimum, being here means stepping back into the present. There is so much of me that lives in the past, and this part of me projects that past into my future. I am so rarely experiencing what is happening now with fresh eyes. I am so often putting happenings in these little boxes, “This is how it happened before, this must be how it will happen again.”
This is my goal today. To experience some of those brief little moments, that stretch out on their sides into eternity. I think they are echoes of the life we lived before we ate the fruit.
Imagine a road.
Maybe it’s a curvy road. It’s a bit dangerous. So somebody sets up guard rails.
The guard rails help, some. They decrease the number of people who drive off the road, damage their car, injure themselves.
Yet sometimes, careless of sleepy drivers veer into the opposite lane. Occasionally, there are head-on collisions. Head on collisions are never good things. So they set up a guard rail running down the middle of the road. And it becomes even more safe.
But once in a while, cars are moving too fast or they are too heavy. They drive through the guard rail. And so they put a second set of rails inside the first.
But even two rails aren’t enough for the faster, heavier cars. So they put a third, a fourth, a fifth.
At the end of this process, the road is left so narrow that nearly every car is bouncing off of them. Some people (presumably those with out much interest in the appearance of their automobiles) even grow to depend on them; they are more careless on this heavily guarded rode than they otherwise would be, knowing that the rails will keep them from driving off.
A good chunk of the freedom people would have had, in the form of space, is just eaten up by the rails. Drivers are limited, now. Perhaps it used to be two lanes in each direction. Now, it is only one. Tempers flare because nobody can drive around slower people in front of them. The original goal is achieved: nobody drives off the road. But is it truly safer? Is it better?
We are handed rules all the time. Often they are good. With the best of intentions, we set up these guard rails. And sometimes, the first set, maybe even the second, these are good, too.
I see this in the church all the time.
The bible says that we shouldn’t get drunk. Good idea. People set up the first guard rails. Maybe don’t have 3 drinks. Also a good idea. (o.k. kind-of a good idea.) And then there is a second set of guard rails: don’t have 2 drinks. And then a third guard: Don’t drink at all.
It’s not a bad thing, not to drink. But when we treat the third guard rail, (don’t drink) as if it’s God’s idea, bad things can happen.
I realized, recently, that this is not new. In fact, it’s one of the first things that people ever did.
God told Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Eve reports to the snake, ” God says we must not eat it or even touch it, or we will die.”
We don’t know where the miscommunication comes in. Or why. But it seems to me that the most likely thing is that Adam built a guard rail. To keep Eve away from the fruit he added the idea that they couldn’t even touch it. Who knows? Perhaps he even convinced himself of this.
I can understand why he might want to do this. It would be a pretty dangerous thing, to stand there, fondling and ogling fruit that you are not supposed to eat.
But to claim that the order comes from God that we can’t even touch it… I imagine that Eve stood there, in the garden, and when she touched the fruit and nothing happened, it might have motivated her to take that next step. It would be easy to think, “Well, I wasn’t supposed to touch this, and yet nothing happened when I did. So presumably when I eat it, nothing will happen either.”
I wonder how many people thought that God said we shouldn’t drink at all. And then they had a drink, and the world did not come crashing down around them. And it called into question everything they had been told about God, everything they believed about God. And they decided God didn’t have much to offer them, words that they thought were his turned out to be wrong.
I don’t believe that we are meant to Genesis literally. But I do believe we are meant to take it seriously. I think the whole book is seeped in layer upon layer of wisdom. This seemingly insignificant detail about Eve is just one tiny little nugget of that wisdom.
This season in my life sucks. I want to get that off my chest first thing. I don’t want it to seem like my motivation in writing this is to be all “ohh, look at him, look at him. He’s all holy stuff.” Nor do I want there to be an implicit finger wagging itself in judgement beneath all this.
I want to be upfront and say I would trade most anything… I would trade too much to get through this time in a quicker or easier fashion. (And here is why the theological debate of original sin is irrelevant to me: I make Adam’s mistake every day. It doesn’t matter to me if I would have inherited the penalty of his sin. I earn it by myself every day.)
But thank God, I am not faced with the choice Adam or Job were faced with. It’s not an option for me to take a cheater’s short cut through this. It’s said that we’re never given more than we can bare. We’re promised that God tests us, but never tempts us. Given that choice would be too much for me, I think, and God knows it.
And if I took the cheater’s short cut, if I robbed myself of this dark season, I would miss out on so much.
That’s why I feel called to write this today. I want to proclaim to myself and anybody who happens to be plodding through this: there is so much going on in my spirit right now. There is so much happening to me in this dark time. So much growth, that I think I’m just too shallow, thick-headed, and wimpy to achieve in any other way.
When I finally opened up the bible, the words jumped out at me with so much importance. It was kind of like going from a two-d movie into a 3-d movie. If the third d wasn’t breadth but breath; if the third d wasn’t about the georgraphy of space time, but somehow created a direct line to somewhere deep inside.
One of the things I read was how the John was sitting up, next to Jesus. He leaned into Jesus when he asked the teacher who would betray them. He leaned into him.
Who knows if that’s more of a metaphor statement than a literal description. John leaned into Jesus. Metaphorically leaning into Jesus is the best I’ll be able to do in this life.
I know all the cliches and I hear them all the time, about how close we’re supposed to be to Jesus. Frankly, some of them make me uncomfortable.
A biblical description becomes almost a biblical invitation to do it myself, though. It’s different than if it occurs in some cheesy worship song.
The bible itself tells me that Sitting right up next to Jesus wasn’t enough. Sometimes, we need to lean into him.
Maybe I’ll blog some more about the work that this time is doing in me, and on me. About 2 of the last 4 posts I’ve already published really are about this. But there’s more to be said, a lot more to be said.
Genesis describes God breathing life into Adam. Much later in the bible, in the book of Timothy, scripture is described in a way that is usually translated as inspired.
But the actual words used are ones which literally mean God-breathed.
We do an awful lot with our belief that scripture is divinely inspired. I’m not denying that it is.
But I wonder if we were meant to go in these directions. I wonder, instead, if the idea in Timothy wasn’t to evoke a paralell with the book of Genesis. God breathed life into us. Then he breathed life into words. And those words would eventually be collected into the bible.
In the same sense that human kind is set apart from the rest of creation, so too are the books of the bible. The breath that God breathed in gives an inherent value, a preciousness.