Once upon a time I didn’t think about what I did, or at least I didn’t let myself think about any of it.  When we let the laundry pile up, though, eventually we are going to actually have to do it or else we will have no clothes.  I suppose you could just try buying new ones to replace the dirty ones (like my brother did for a season of his life), but eventually that well will run dry.  Even for the rich and famous.  Inevitably, we will all find ourselves needing to do the laundry.  We can pay someone else, we can do it all by hand, or (the real goal) we might grow up enough to throw it in the machine and know that it’s all going to come out looking like it should.

You couldn’t pay me to let someone do my dirty laundry, and by this I mean let someone sift through the heavy places of heart and mind, because if we were talking about actual jeans and t-shirts and socks, then yes (a resounding YES), I would let someone do that laundry.  But not the emotional stuff.  And since I wasn’t mature enough to use the machine, I did it all by hand.  Eventually I just plain old had to start making room, and the process was arduous and just entirely un-fun.  Each piece of my life would have to be dragged up and down that washboard, scraping my knuckles and burning my hands on hot water and soap.  And then I would have to wring out as much water as possible, sweating from the effort.  Give them a good shake, and spread them around on the grass to dry.  Each piece of my life needed handling because that’s what the process requires.  So when I did (think about everything), think about the different things I was (or wasn’t) doing, I would have to shrug my shoulders and say that in the end I was willing to make the trade.

Life really is all about barter and trade, isn’t it?

And laundry.

(I just don’t think there’s any way around the laundry).

Here’s the thing.  I have sometimes done what is right and it made me really happy, and I have sometimes done what is wrong and it made me really happy.  I think we have to be careful when we put too much emphasis on consequences.  I believe in God and heaven and hell and sin.  I believe that, as a Christian, I need to act in a way that supports that (i.e. if you call yourself a Christian, you should be following the teachings of the Bible, which is the guidebook of Christianity).  I think we try to get people to avoid “sinning” because we don’t want them to blacken their hearts and ruin their lives.  But it’s not really like that, is it?  At least, not all the time.  (Maybe not even most of the time.  I have my own theories about why that is, but I’m going to keep moving forward…)  What I’m trying to say is that I have made plenty of poor choices and have not reaped any traumatizing results.  To be sure, I could have.  I could have been the lucky son-of-a-gun who got an STD or got pregnant young or overdosed or whatever, but I wasn’t.  And that’s the way it is for a good portion of us.  So that most of us don’t really have any consequences at all.  Don’t get me wrong- the poor choices I’ve made haven’t made my life better.   I have certainly embarrassed myself, and maybe even experienced some real, deep shame now and again.  In the end, regardless of trauma or minimal repercussions, I did discover that we can’t just do whatever we want to do and not accumulate some baggage from it all.  I think in society’s eyes, though, we don’t really think we are accumulating baggage (aka dirty laundry).  We think we are accumulating “memories”.

The simple fact of the matter is that nothing can compare to those really good times we have had.  I’m sure you all know what I mean when I say “good times”.  I’m sure you can fill in the blanks with your own good times.  I could try to paint you this really romanticized version of mine, and I could even make you wish that you had been there too.  Being with other people, to the limits of our mind, soul, and body, is the most incredible thing on the planet.  I can try to convince you that it isn’t, but it’s a moot point.  And for those of you that may not know, a moot point is the same as saying that something is obsolete.  For instance, I could erase everything that I just wrote about how charming experiences of the body can be, and we would be right back to where we started.  For the academic, we would call this a presupposition: a self-evident truth.  Which means that we both walked onto this scene already understanding that the stimulation of the senses is perhaps the loudest siren of them all.

I’m going to take a step back from all of these words and simply tell you about a conversation that I just had with someone.

This someone has been one of my closest friends for years now.  We lived together when we were young, in our late teens and early twenties, and we spent our weekends doing whatever we wanted.  I would like to assure you that our pastimes would probably qualify as mild at most, we were basically at Boy Meets World level, but to us they were racy and thrilling, and I think that’s what it’s really about.  That night, though, we were talking again about how badly we sometimes want those weekends back.

As we talked, we began to dissect this problematic concept.

As Christians, and not just in title but as truly Bible-believing, on-fire-for-God kind of Christians, we knew that we shouldn’t be wistful about the times of reckless abandon and poor choices.  We began a back and forth about how our hearts pull at these desires, even though we are secure, and at peace in our security.  We even know that those desires are counter-productive to said security.

So we began to dissect it all.

And I do believe we got to the bottom of it.

Do any of you remember the wisest man who ever lived?  His name was Solomon.  So of course you won’t actually remember him, because he was around a really long time ago, but you probably know who I’m talking about.  Most people, even those with no religious ties or affiliations, could suggest that Solomon (or at least, “some guy from the Bible”) was the wisest man who ever lived.  Just the fact that we are still talking about him lends itself to the statement.  Back in his day, people came from all over the world to listen to what he had to say.  [Nowadays, people try to say that Solomon wasn’t all that.  That people in Egypt were saying the same things that Solomon was saying.  What we fail to realize, though, is that those rulers from Egypt were traveling to listen to Solomon, and then referring to his teachings in their own writings.]

I mention this ancient man because even in those ancient days he spent most of his life following goosebumps and good times.  You can see what he means when he says, “There is nothing new under the sun.”  When his time was drawing to a close he began to panic a little bit.  And he wondered how it was possible to panic: he was the wisest man who ever lived, the absolute richest, and he had probably done everything that there was to be done (he was married to one thousand women, for starters).

Solomon began to realize that God had set eternity in our hearts.

Who on this earth doesn’t want to live forever?  I mean, no one really wants to die.  Oh, sure, there are people who think that it is preferable to being alive, but they would easily trade death for a life of peace.  We all just want peace.

The very ebb and flow to everything reveals that there is a purpose.  You see, the cyclical balance to life is the proof that there is purpose.  Rain waters the plants, which evaporate the rain back into the clouds, which will rain back down on them again and cause them to grow.  Birds drop seeds as they fly, which grow into vegetation that will feed the birds, who will drop the seeds when they eat or take the food back to their homes, and more vegetation will grow.  Can you believe that if nature has a purpose, how much more so do we?

We need to talk about the big things of life, because life is big.  I mean, we’re talking about life here, people.  We are talking about us.  You and me and our families, our children, our grandchildren, our sisters and brothers and dearest friends and even Ulysses Yuletide who takes your order at Starbucks.  We need to talk about choices.  Did you know that it is now almost universally accepted that a fetus in-utero is a an actual, living person?  Unfortunately, it took some serious technology to get us this far, but there is now no denying that an unborn baby is just as alive as a newborn baby.  Even pro-choice accepts this dynamic; their stand persists in choice.

Okay.  I can work with choices.

What do our choices do, though?  Right?  Otherwise I wouldn’t care about the poor ones I’ve made, and I certainly wouldn’t care about what Solomon had to say about the poor ones that he’s made.  The fact of the matter is that a vast majority of people actually don’t care about their choices, not in a legitimate way.  I think it has to do with this prevailing idea that we only live once. YOLO, anyone?

If we only live one, then there comes upon us this insatiable drive to never stop experiencing.  It’s this obsession with not wanting to miss out on a golden, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Do you see what I’m saying?  I’ve got to spend this money, I’ve got to go out while I’m young, I’ve got to take this trip, I’ve got to go deeper into debt, I’ve got to abuse my body, at the very least I’ve got to think about how I only live once and there is just so freaking much to do.  Even worse, there is so much I’m going to miss out on.  Am I right?  It doesn’t matter if we go to Ireland this year; next year we are going to want to go to Japan.  It doesn’t matter if we got our new leather jacket; next week we are going to get that fabulous pair of boots.

Did you know that you can only wear one outfit at a time?

I’m being serious.  It doesn’t matter how many pairs of clothes you have, you can only wear one at a time.  Said what?  It’s true.  It really is.  How about this: the less clothes that you own, the less laundry you will have to do.  Remember my big schpiel about laundry, and about how our choices are like laundry, and how we will inevitably have to take them all out and handle each piece?  And sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard we scrub, we’ve still got a spaghetti stain in the middle of our favorite shirt.

We all want to live forever.

I’m not going to lie.  It is a downright sacrifice to not do certain things anymore.  But it’s okay.  Just because I can do something doesn’t mean that I need to.  Instead of feeling sorry for myself, or like I’m missing out, I can rest in my convictions because I know that, in the end, I don’t need to accumulate those generic life experience.  I am completely secure in the fact that I may die one day, but I will absolutely live forever.

There is no urgency in me.  At least not when it comes to me.

I have happily made the trade.  It really, truly is a trade.  I have willingly, with all of my heart, traded in some of the more popular pastimes, the frantic YOLO mindset, in exchange for the care and security that only God can provide.  Even though I experience those twinges of nostalgia, the phantom itch, if you will, I have no worries.  I think about people living for their weekends, and the amazing parties, and I understand how they are feeling.  I felt that way before too.  Then I sigh, and feel some sadness, because when the rubber meets the road those people are on their own.  They have those deep-seated worries that come with being their own god.  Everything.  And I mean everything, is on their shoulders.  The goings-on in the world make no sense, the reality of bills that need paid are ever-present, the crossing of the fingers that the house won’t burn down, that you won’t get cancer…  These people are completely on their own.

So I breathe a sigh of relief.

Maybe I don’t have the kind of fun that pretty much everyone else is having, but I have peace.  My house can burn down and I know that I will be provided for.  I could get cancer, but I know my place in eternity is secure.  This is what I have traded for, and I am good with it.  I am more than good with it.  I am so, so, so grateful.


I had a conversation with someone recently about this question: Does God allow others in our lives to behave in a manner that is specifically challenging to us?  To be a bit more direct: If I am desiring to be patient, does God influence, or allow, others in my life to behave in a fashion that would cause me to need to be more patient?

I can first ascertain, without a shadow of a doubt, that God ‘allows’ everything.  He is God, and nothing is outside of His power.  His sovereignty is as much a comfort to me as it is a challenge to others.  The question is not whether or not God allows certain things, or why.  That question is essentially rhetorical, and would only prove to be frustrating.  The real question is: what is my responsibility?  How am I owning my own life?  How am I living up to my potential?  Am I doing what I am supposed to be doing?

Human beings are complex and intense creatures.  We are, in essence, supernatural beings ourselves.  We have the control to make changes in not only our own lives, but in the lives of others.  Indeed, we can choose the trajectory of our future.  We pretend, however, to be helpless and hopeless.  We pretend that God must always be to blame because He is…well…God.  We pretend that we can not alter from the inside out because we are only who we are.  We do not accept that our actions effect others (unless someone else’s actions wind up effecting us, of course).  We do not accept that we have a responsibility to behave in a certain manner, and to be thoughtful with our actions.

It gradually dawned on me that my life was not what it was meant to be.  I knew that I needed to to find answers, but not only answers, resolutions.  There was a reason that I was feeling the way that I was feeling.  It was not about ‘who I was’, because there was no enjoyment from being that person.

Who was I?

Why was I living my life the way that I was living?

What could be done about it? 

After spending years of watching people interact with one another in the poorest ways possible , I had became so depressed and overcome by the intensity of abandon all around me that I became nonexistent, nearly agoraphobic, and hopelessly hopeless.  I stayed in that place until there was no denying what needed to be done: I could not be a good wife if I remained where I was.  Above all things, I wanted to be a good wife.  How could I share my life with another human being when I did not even want to share my life with myself?  That is when the journey began, and glorious secrets were revealed, and things that were not even secrets.  I began to know the freedom of being responsible for myself.  I discovered that the most convenient  thing about being responsible for one’s self is that it releases one from being responsible for anyone else.  I could watch  anyone around me putting themselves first, but I did not have to carry that injustice with me.  I could simply see it, and turn from it, and choose to have no part in it.  I could decide right then and there that I would not do the same.

Our interactions with one another can never be erased, and so I spent the majority of my life simply afraid of interactions.  I was afraid of doing and saying something, anything, that would leave a negative impact on someone else.  I still feel that fear.  But I believe that I have learned how to harness it.  I am careful to know what I am going to say before I say it, and why.

Why will I do what I am going to do?

Are the motives purely for myself?  Or are they for a greater good?  If the motives are just for myself, I find a way to manage and process in privacy.  It is surprising how eager some people are just to say something.  Just to do it.  They simply cannot bear the internal pressure of a feeling, of an opinion.  They are concerned first and foremost with relieving themselves.  And then they will continue to say it, they will continue to do it, as if they must get everyone to understand, to agree, and they will keep blundering about, and charging forward, until we cringe when we see their phone number, we turn away when we see them coming, or, at the very least, we just sigh when we think of them.  I desired to never be that person, and I am never happy with myself when I succumb to the temptation.  What a tremendous amount of work that takes, and what sacrifice.  I don’t even hesitate to point out the sacrifice, even at risk of sounding haughty, because its the truth.  Relationships take sacrifice.  People deserve sacrifice.  And yet, greatest and most prevalent of tragedies, no one is keen on sacrifice.  Because it is painful?  Otherwise it isn’t sacrifice at all.  People simply can not bear to feel that burning, to feel that choking, to surrender.  Someone recently pointed out how no one can bear to be inconvenienced by discomfort.  When they are bored of a relationship, or feel a little trapped, or simply want their way, they choose to say things, and do things, and basically just opt out.  They refuse to be inconvenienced.  They think it is an instinct, instead of a choice.

I have found that there truly are two kinds of people: the thoughtful, and the ‘not’ thoughtful (the word I use for that is selfish).  Each thoughtful person is different from the other thoughtful people, and each selfish person is different than the other selfish people.  The thoughtful people take a moment: why do I do what I do?  The selfish people can not take a moment: Why do others do what they do? (Including God Himself).  We each have the capacity to be selfish, and we each have the capacity to be thoughtful.  Sometimes we surprise ourselves with how thoughtful we can be, and sometimes we can not rise above the drive of selfishness.  We each have the ability to turn from our selfishness and to, likewise, discard our thoughtfulness.  Each personality will swing in either direction inherently.  Whether or not we have the guts to admit which way it is swinging is a different story.  I know some incredibly thoughtful people who admit that they are inherently selfish.  Their first instinct is always ‘me’, and they work hard to put others first.  Those people are such an inspiration to me, and some of them are my deepest and most trusted friends.

It is hard work to be thoughtful. Yes: work.  And it takes a lot of practice.  Yes, I also said practice.  A lifetime of practice, actually.  Which is actually just a lifetime of application.  It is a principle that I have actively decided to base my life on.  I know that my days will be filled with challenges, either face to face, or even just in a memory.  I have learned how to interact with people, because it is not something that should be taken lightly.   Most importantly, I have studied myself.  I now know myself, and how I will initially feel, which will try to influence how I am going to initially react.

There is nothing so glorious as my life dawned around me, and I could put from me all of those instincts.  Unfortunately, it seemed that the more freedom I gained in my own life, the more I watched others around me struggling, basically forcing themselves to the front at all times, and becoming frustrated and angry when they weren’t sensing things moving in their direction…  Now that I knew life was about choices to be made, that we have a responsibility to handle our feelings and our lives accordingly, I felt sad for the futility I saw around me…

So is this God allowing others to behave in a certain manner?  I think so.  I think so because He gave us the ability to choose: each thought, each impulse, and each action.  To be thoughtful, or not thoughtful.  Is He causing us to behave a certain way?  No, I don’t think so.  He doesn’t have to, for the same reasons just listed.

How could everyone be saying: Why do others do what they do?  When it really comes down to: Why do I do what I do?

There is a friend of mine who’s been brought to the dust.

Do you know what I mean by that? Brought to the dust?

It is a reference to Job, who experienced such profound loss and suffering that the only way he could cope was to sit in the dust and pour it on his head. Have you ever experienced that?  Pain at such a magnitude that you didn’t know what to do but you had to do something? My friend experienced this, and she told me that when she couldn’t take it anymore she would become very still, with her eyes closed, and envision sitting in the dust, scooping it up and pouring it over her head. It was the only true expression of what was going on inside of her. She made this concept so very REAL to me, and so from then on she would tell me when she was in the dust, and I would join her there. I am here, I would tell her, and she would know that I had also become still, that I had closed my eyes and I was in that same place next to her, making not a sound, only that of my hands scraping the ground, of the earth sifting down through my hair, catching in my eyelids, making mud tracks down my face.

You know who else was in the dust? Jesus Christ.

His mission was ugly and traumatizing.

It was not glorious, and so we have a tendency of feeling sorry for Him.

Isaiah says, “…we esteemed Him stricken.” (53:4b).

Five verses later we see, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to the crush Him…[and] the will of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.” (53:10)

Did you catch that last part? The part that says “prosper”? And did you notice how it comes AFTER the part about God’s will? Watch what happens next:

“Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the righteous One, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous.” (53:11)

Apparently the best part isn’t getting out of the dust, its being put IN the dust, because in the dust we can accomplish the work of the Father… on behalf of others?

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So my friend who is in the dust, these past months I have watched her endure utmost betrayal and constant neglect, and the hand of the Lord has told her to stay. Just stay. In my heart I know that this is about God and my friend, and the mighty work He has done in her and wants to do through her. It isn’t about my friend and the other parties involved, it isn’t about the other parties and God (although it is on their end, of course). It’s about my friend, and her God. My God. The God of the universe.

The details of this story aren’t necessary to get the main point, which is God telling my friend, “Look like my Son. I have a work to accomplish, and this is your part in it…”

This morning, during my prayer time, I was begging God to vindicate my friend. To not let her faint. To stop asking her to be in the dust. Raise her up, God! I hollered in my heart. I got really excited when, a few minutes later, I read in Isaiah, “Behold, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering…and I will put it into the hand of your tormentors, who have said to you, ‘Bow down that we might pass over’; and you have made your back like the ground and like the street for them to pass over.” (51:22&23)

But then I kept reading. And I came across the part in Isaiah chapter 53 about how Jesus bore our griefs and sorrows, our transgressions, and about how “we esteemed Him stricken”.   Which means that we decided God had struck Him down, instead of seeing what was really going on: Jesus allowing Himself to be used by God, whatever that looked like. And what was the result? He saved the entire world, and everyone on it, until the end of the time! Said what?! And we esteemed Him stricken? Afflicted or not, the greatest work in history was accomplished.

The point is that “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth.” (53:7a)

I had to swallow hard when I got here.

Really, God? Really? There was a heaviness that came over me. A deep sense of sadness. Because God was telling me that He was encouraging my friend to look like His Son.  That He has a will to accomplish.  But I was telling her to look like God, and accomplish her own will. And it really stung. It stung to have to sit back and just let her be in the dust, to just let her keep laying on the ground, so that her back was the road for her enemies to pass over.


What else is there to do but lay down too? And hold her hand. And hope that sometimes some of the steps would land on me, so that she could get a small, minuscule, infinitesimal break from all of the heels in her neck and kicks to the back of her head.

Because here’s how it worked:

Jesus Christ Himself never asked God to vindicate Him.

You know why?

Because He took God at His word (51:22&23). He was one-hundred percent sold out to the work of His Father, and so He prayed, “Your will, not mine.” He knew in His heart that God would take care of Him in the end, that He would be vindicated at the right time, and that it didn’t matter who saw it. And I have known all of that in my heart about my friend, and I was having a really hard time swallowing it. Until today. Well, it’s still hard to swallow. But I know for a fact that I don’t want to get in the way of the amazing work that God has for my friend. That would be like trying to steal her blessings, and thwart the amazing work that God can use her for. In fact, I even have to admit to myself what an honor it is, for the Father to ask her to look like His Son.

Allow me to reassure you that, despite my fallenness and the pressure I put on her, she is doing a fabulous job. She has basically grown a beard.

I was getting evaluated at the VA because I had been out of the military for about a year by then, and they wanted to do a follow-up to make sure that I was doing OK (holistically, so to speak).  By then I couldn’t stop focusing on the fact that something was really wrong with me, and that my husband deserved to be with someone who would be proactive and responsible.  I knew in my heart that I couldn’t be a good wife if I was refusing to find a better way.

I like to think that I would have eventually girded my loins and taken the plunge into the bottomless and icy cold black hole of the mental health world on my own. What it really comes down to, though, if I am remembering correctly, is that my cousin was going to school to get her degree in therapy at the same time I couldn’t stop thinking about giving it a try again. I told her that I had been having a nagging in the back of my bleached out mind about going to therapy, but I just couldn’t understand why it was necessary. What was the difference between talking to my friends or paying some random person for the same thing?  It made me angry to think about, to tell you the truth. It made me feel taken advantage of and out-of-control. It made me want to say ‘damnit’ all the time, which I did. And a lot worse.

Very nicely, my cousin had said to me, “Well, cousin…” (we all call each other cousin; not in a hill-billy back-country kind of way, but in the kind of way you would say ‘mom’ or ‘dad’ or ‘aunt’ or ‘your majesty’ or ‘teacher’). She said, ”Well, cousin, a therapist is a professional. And that means they hear what you have to say, and then they teach you the proper skills to help you work through that, so that you don’t have to deal with it anymore, and so that you can know what to do in the future.”

This was very distracting for me.  It was very distracting because now it made sense.  Now I had to do it.

Then the VA contacted me and told me about the evaluation, and it was during that visit that I revealed my complacency about life and/or driving to the physician, and then I found myself on my first visit to my new therapist (whom I will henceforth refer to as ‘the doctor’.  Give credit where credit is due, you know?).

I was very nervous about this lady not being a Christian, but I had to go to her because she was free through the VA and because God wanted to use her in such an amazing way in my life. She could never know how much He worked through her. And that is just so beautiful to me. God always finds a way to keep His promises, even when it doesn’t seem like He has anything to use. He can use anything He wants. And I love that. My therapist did not profess Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, but she for sure equipped me and walked me through a very dark night of the soul and here I am today, living out loud for Christ, and all because of her. She didn’t even get to see me through until the end; she didn’t even get to see the dawn breaking over me, shedding light into my bleached out mind, but it all started with her. Do you remember how the Bible says to plant the seed, to nurture the seeds that others have planted, even if we don’t see the results? This woman wasn’t even a Christian and she was living by that principle.

I am so strong now, so healthy, so confident and secure that I am probably kind of annoying.

I gave the doctor a really hard time the first time I went to see her. The first couple of times. The whole time, actually, as I’m looking back on it. You would think that I had a court order to be there or something.

Most of what we talked about eludes me, but I left my time with her full to the brim and recharged on three basic principles.

The first principle was the practice of mindfulness. This may sound very New Age and Buddhist to the more spiritually sensitive of you. I will confess right here and now that I am an avid doer of yoga, but that you shouldn’t be alarmed because I am in no way a Yogi.  I love the exercise of yoga: I do not worship it, or myself, or my ‘practice’, but it is impossible to feel yucky inside out after leaving a yoga session.  Yoga is the epitome of mindfulness, which is life-changing for someone with anxiety.

Mindfulness is the intentional process of removing thoughts from your mind. I’m not sure what the actual definition of it is, but that is what I took away from it. Anxiety usually yields about a hundred thoughts in just as many seconds. None of them make sense, and none of them do any good. They are just exhausting, which yields even more anxiety. It is even worse when a single thought revisits on rapid fire. I’ve spent hours, even days, honestly I’ve spent years, obsessing over the same thoughts and ideas. And the really awful thing is that no matter how much I thought about them they didn’t change, or get better, or resolve. My mind was on the fritz.

Mindfulness if kind of like meditation in that you are supposed to picture the actual process of taking out these thoughts and putting them away. Setting them on a leaf that goes floating by, if you will. It is recognizing that the world does not end, and that no one is in jeopardy, if I say ‘no’ to some of my many thoughts.  It is recognizing that not all thoughts are legitimate, or even valid, and that they are something that just ‘happen’, instead of something that we ‘produce’.  As mindfulness is practiced it becomes easier to be aware of racing thoughts, and to harness them and reign them in. To discard them and shuffle them about.

Each time I saw her, the doctor would walk me through an exercise in mindfulness.  When I was home I never actually sat down by myself and went through it, but I developed an awareness about my mental process, and with practice I have gotten very good at keeping my thoughts in check. Anti-anxiety medicine really helps with this.  It is crucial, to be honest.  I suppose this is where I should make my plug for psychiatric medication.  For instance, my thyroid hormone is no good so I have to take a thyroid replacement.  The hormones controlling my emotions are also not in the greatest of working order.  I honestly don’t know if they ever will be.  But anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medicine are an actual supplement for something that our body is supposed to produce a certain way but isn’t.  This might be harder for you to understand if you are not a woman, and I don’t say that because I am a feminist but because it’s true.  You know those pictures of the mad scientist’s chemistry lab, with bubbling beakers and tubes dripping neon fluids?  This is what the inside of a woman’s body looks like.  Women go through a constant cycle of hormone changes, if you catch my drift, and I am not reducing women to their biology I am just stating a fact. I am kind of cursed when it comes to hormones, in an all around kind of way, and it sucks tremendously.  Just as I am not ashamed for taking my thyroid medication, I am not ashamed for taking my anti-anxiety medicine.  I even have to take birth control for extra hormonal support.

With room in my mind, thanks to mindfulness (which was supported by my new prescription of Zoloft), the doctor and I were able to start digging around in there. “What is actually going on in here?” we said to my mind.

This is when the ultimate enlightening moment of my life came about.  I hope that the word ‘enlightening’ is not offensive to you since I was just talking about yoga and mindfulness.  I don’t mean it in the Eastern way of ‘transcendence’ but in the more historical way of ‘the dawning of reason’.  It is the second of the three principles I mentioned earlier; second only because it happened after the introduction of mindfulness and before the third.  You see, I learned that boundaries are not only healthy but necessary for a relationship to work well.  I didn’t know that boundaries even existed in relationships, for better or for worse.  I just thought people were interacting and what you got was what you got.  For example, when I was a young teen I worked at a pizza place where the manager would actually yell at me.  He knew that it was wrong because he would joke about it at the end of the day as if he was afraid I was going to tell on him.  But the fact of the matter was that I didn’t know it was wrong.  I would feel like I was going to be sick as I walked to work, but I never put two and two together.  It is safe to say that I was naive when it came to boundaries.

The doctor and I spent a long time working on that, and what healthy relationships are supposed to look like, and I suddenly found myself able to be in healthy relationships. I had gone for so long with messes everywhere.  That began to change, and I began to see and realize the merit, the actual benefit, of other human beings. Not only that, but that I also could be beneficial to others, and that I mattered too. It was like coming alive, and that is really cool.  If the word ‘enlightenment’ bothered you earlier just pretend I said ‘cool’.

The third principle from my time with the doctor could not have been so successful without the second, and vice versa.

I think this is when I really began to stop giving her such a hard time. Like I said, I gave her a hard time.  I was really aggressive with this lady, and it wasn’t necessarily because I wanted to be a jerk but because there was an actual physical process inside of me that kept me from interacting openly with another human being.  I mean, if I couldn’t fight the urge, I would go in the closet to cry so that my husband wouldn’t know.  I knew that this lady would have to drag me out of myself, and by the grace of God she rose to the challenge.  By the third session she had thrown out the relaxed posture with her hands folded and she was sitting up straighter; she completely changed her tone of voice from docile to challenging, and she began to fill in the silences, keeping things moving, pushing back at my shoves. It was quite exhilarating, really, and I probably should have taken my running shoes to each appointment so that I could have gone for a jog afterwards. That would have been a great idea.  I guess that is what they mean when they say that hindsight is twenty twenty.

The third principle was introduced when she stopped us in the middle of our conversation. I was probably saying something about how angry it made me feel when people say that happiness is a choice. I used to want to throw things at people when they said that: wouldn’t I actually be happy if I could be? I wanted to say ‘damnit’ at them and throw things heavy enough and hard enough to do some damage. My mind would just protest that, you know?

The doctor probably stopped me when I was in the middle of going on about the injustice of it all, and she had me stand up.

We were in an office, so it was kind of cramped, and I was feeling kind of embarrassed about having to stand up, but it would have been even more embarrassing to refuse so I did what she said.

She gave me her empty trash bin and filled it up with some enormous books from her bookshelf.  She told me that the trash bin full of psych material was like my depression. She made me hold the bin out as far from my body as I could and walk across the room. Of course I wanted to be good at it but I wasn’t, because the point wasn’t about being good at it, it was about how hard it was to carry a burden like that. She told me then to hold the bin in a way that was comfortable for me, and to walk across the room like that, and so I did.

The depression is there either way, she told me. It’s not about getting rid of the depression, because it will be there as long as it will be there. It’s about how we manage it. It’s about how we ‘hold’ it. The depression wasn’t myself- it was a burden in my life, it was something that I had to carry for the time being, which is why I took it so personally, because I couldn’t get rid of it, but I could manage it well if I only knew how.

I’m really glad that I didn’t start laughing hysterically, or even crying for that matter, because that would have really ruined the moment for me. The point is that I suddenly felt so incredibly liberated that I wanted to celebrate.

I left that day a new person.

The depression did not leave me right after my time with the doctor.  It was as she said: it was just something in my life.  I continued taking my medicine, and I coupled it with therapy off and on. I learned how to manage my thoughts and feelings while my body was being mended. I would not have been able to bridge the gap emotionally if the gaps had not been bridged physiologically, I know that for certain.

I learned that the best way to get rid of the anxiety was not to bully myself through it but to accept that I needed an anti-inflammatory.  That is the cool way of describing anti-anxiety medicine.  I heard it on one of the many radio programs that I listen to, and thankfully Christian radio today tries to get the word out that it’s okay to take psychiatric medicine; that we don’t have to feel guilty for it, like we’re not letting the Holy Spirit do His job if we are on them or something.  The guy on the program explained how anti-anxiety medicine is like an anti-inflammatory for the brain, and that really resonated with me.  I would go from zero to sixty in an instant, completely unable to talk myself down, and all of this felt compounded because I internalized everything and never threw things or yelled.  So the anti-inflammatory meds for my mind probably lengthened my life by a few years.  They say that stress shaves off some of our time, and stress is one word for what I was going through.

As an added bonus the medication helped me prioritize.  Since, like anyone with a good case of anxiety, I was a control freak, I had to learn how to let God be in charge.  I really wanted to let God be in charge, but this is probably what took me the longest to achieve, and I am still achieving it today.  It has been one heck of a process, letting go little bits here, little bits there, always finding new ones, always discovering that I have taken back a previously surrendered area.  At this time in my life, and for some time now, I can honestly say that I do not worry much because I have complete confidence in the Maker of the Heavens and the Earth, and you can take that straight to the bank.

The greatest freedom a person can know is the sweetest surrender.

In time I began to feel the sneaking suspicion that I wasn’t depressed anymore. It was creeping up on me sometimes, the thought that I was free of it. But I was too afraid to think about it outright, and too afraid to say it out loud. I had been depressed for most of my life, it seemed straight-up impossible to not be anymore. I didn’t want to draw attention to it in case I got depressed again right away and had to be like, “Nevermind.”

Sure enough, though, it was really gone, and I began to talk about it.

I am so thankful to God for that, and I pray His blessings on all those amazing doctors and specialists out there who change people’s lives by helping them see what life really looks like.  Of course it didn’t stay away forever. I already said everyone has a bent, and mine is depression and/or anxiety, but at least I understand that it will not last forever, that it cannot last forever because one day I will be living in a perfect body, restored to my Creator in Heaven, and none of all of this will matter anymore.

I struggled with depression for years and years and years; for most of my life, really.

I actually get depressed just thinking about getting depressed again, it sucks that bad.

The thing about depression is that you aren’t just in a bad mood. It’s not that you are sad and cry easily, or that you sit around crying for no reason. It’s that you aren’t operating as a human being. Your soul knows that it is supposed to act one way (aka smile at the beautiful sunshine), but your head is not letting you. It is keeping you hostage. It takes that natural instinct of satisfaction in the sunshine and washes it in bleach, so that it looks like the rest of what you just felt. I think it’s like starting to feel something and then, every single time, you stop mid-feeling. Imagine that our thoughts and feelings are all riding a train, and they all look and seem as different as they are supposed to.  At the last stop, before they come out of us as words or actions, something malfunctions- they drive through a force-field that zaps everything into bone-white empty boxes.   This is why people don’t actually like being depressed, or think that they are cool because they are depressed, or even why you can’t say, “I don’t mind being depressed.” This is why depression is an actual physiological thing and not a bandwagon some assume we have jumped on.

At one point in time, I didn’t know how to find God in the midst of my depression.  It does turn out that He was there all along, and that’s something that I really appreciate about Him.  I have learned that I can simply trust that He is always there, always interceding for me; it may not seem like it at the time but my own personal experiences have shown that I can always recognize His presence when I look back.

God really does like to make sure that He keeps His promises to us.  As humans we have a lot of junk to deal with.  Junk inside of ourselves, inside of other people…even the most beautiful and innocent piece of nature has some kind of junk.  It’s hard to believe He is there a lot of the time.  Everyone always breaks their promises at some point or another, and it’s our natural instinct to assume that God will too.  A lot of us are even on the lookout for ways to say that God has broken His promises.  Some of us, like me, just fall asleep and wait until God comes to rescue us.  I thought that I didn’t have to do anything; I assumed that if I just kept my eyes closed, one day, when I opened them everything would look different.  But not only different, it would look better.

Because of my depression I was very frustrated, so I dealt with a lot of anger.  Just about everything made me angry. I remember feeling so angry when my friend was buying her first house, even though it was clearly the best option for them.  It just made sense for them to buy a house.  When she told me about it, I remember just being bent out of shape, and I was so perturbed at being perturbed. I knew that it didn’t make an ounce of sense to be angry.  I would say to myself, “What on earth is your problem?  Just get over yourself and snap out of it!”  No matter how hard I tried, though, I couldn’t feel happiness or excitement for her, I could only feel annoyed, and I was so stinking tired of having such an opinion about everything.  Especially opinions that didn’t even make an ounce of sense.  It was driving me crazy.

Back then, when all of this was happening, I thought that I was choosing to be angry, and so I would try to bully myself out of it.  I truly didn’t understand the connection between the depression and the anger.  I was just so sick of always being around myself, so bent out of shape about everything.  I mean, if you get down to it, anger is basically deliberate. But what I didn’t know at the time was that anger is an expression of something else.  [Did you know that a lot of people who can’t communicate well, say the elderly with dementia, or some people with special needs, they will begin to act angry and aggressive if they are experiencing some sort of physical pain or other type of disturbance?  So if someone who is normally pretty laid back starts throwing stuff, or shouting obscenities, you might want to check their temperature, or make sure their little toe isn’t bent back inside of their shoe.]

At some point, though, the chronically frustrated/irritated/angry people have to recognize what is happening, and admit how much it sucks for them, or at least for everyone around them.  Unfortunately, I get the feeling that a lot of people just plain like to get angry. It makes them feel good about themselves. They associate it with power and validation and justice, so they think they have a right to be angry. I can honestly say that I did not like it.  I hated it.  I felt like I was infected by a disease; that I was dying; that I was betraying myself and that I couldn’t get myself to stop.

Following this new-found self-awareness in regards to the whole anger problem, the next step absolutely needs to be making it right. It’s not okay to just shrug and say, “This is how it is. This is how I am.” That simply isn’t true. We aren’t meant to be angry. Anger isn’t a personality trait. It’s a defense. It is ammunition for a war. There are simply no acceptable excuses for it.

I spent a lot of time gnashing my teeth and harassing God, asking Him, “Why don’t You fight for me?”  I was incredibly angry, and this was the real kind of anger, not the kind of frustrated anger.  This was the angry-at-God kind of anger, which looks unlike anything else.  One day, it was as if I came into the eye of the storm, and He was there, asking me, “Why don’t you fight for yourself?”  At the time, I thought that was really wrong.  After all, I am only a small human, and I should not have to fight my battles when there is a God Who could do it so much better…so much easier.  If I believed in Him, God was supposed to vindicate me like all of those really empowering verses say.  From then on, every time I would ask Him (why didn’t He fight for me) I felt His same answer coming back: why don’t you fight for yourself.

This went on for a really long time.

The thing about depression is that it makes you anxious (at least for the control freaks).  Now, allow me to elaborate: when you hear somebody say that they have anxiety it doesn’t mean they don’t like sitting still, or that they are high-energy. It means that they are solely focused on everything going wrong.  Even if it doesn’t seem like anything is going wrong to the innocent bystander, it is obviously going wrong since it is out of our control.  Obviously.  And since depression takes the control away from us, we begin to feel anxiety; we begin to see that the world is literally swirling down a huge giant toilet. This is what people mean when they say that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. It isn’t actually a handbasket, per se, unless ‘handbasket’ is another word for ‘toilet’, which could be a possibility in some languages.  You never know.

Since the world is being flushed down the toilet the person with anxiety feels like they are simultaneously spinning like mad and drowning. It is not surprising for people with anxiety to puke a lot, and that’s a fact. I don’t actually know that it is a fact, but I am basically certain that it is. At least it was for me. I got a lot of migraines, and my nerves were bad, and so I would puke a lot. My body was apparently trying to purge the disturbance.  Some people smoke or drink because of their anxiety. I puked.

I had been dealing with all of this, all of this depression and anxiety, from the time I was a small child.  I call it my ‘bent’.  We all have one, they just look different on each person.  I was a morbid kid, and I was a morose youth.  I was pretty self-obsessed, and incredibly stand-offish.  I was afraid of everything.  Literally.  I wouldn’t even play in my front yard because I was afraid of being kidnapped.  I have no idea how on earth I joined the military.

The Marine Corps, people.

It doesn’t make an ounce of sense.  Accept that it was the direction God wanted to send me in, and it was where I went, and I’m so glad that I did.  Because I really grew up during my time in the military.  I blossomed, if you will.  I met my husband, and so many incredible friends.  I had amazing experiences, and I am proud of all I accomplished.  And yes, I got the free college, which is the guise I joined under.  I didn’t know that it was God sending me into my life- I thought I was just choosing free school.  I was obsessed with school.  I was good at it, and I loved being smart, so I thought I should just keep going to school, and since I couldn’t afford it, I would do an enlistment in the military, and then get four years of free school.  Easy peasy.  And if I was going to do the military I was going to do it right, you know, and some deranged side of me wanted to go to Marine Corps bootcamp.  What is up with that…

I mention all of that because the first half of my time in the military was amazing.  I was on top of the world.  The second half was hell on wheels.  And I was dealing with undiscovered health problems.  So, man, did my anger problems go through the roof.

By the time I came back to the civilian world, I had really reached the point where I was totally strung out. I honest to God didn’t relax. (I would swear to God but that is taboo). I was always doing something. Even in my downtime I was keeping busy with something else. When I slept my dreams were all bad. All of the hollow places in my body ached, and it turns out these exist primarily in and between the bones, in the guts, and in those spaces of the skull that fill with mucus during a sinus infection.  I do believe that our cells might also possess some hollow places.  My skin hurt.  When I say that my skin hurt I actually mean that my skin hurt, so that I did not like someone to even brush against me, and this was probably from all of the hairs standing on end because of all the energy I produced.  I still don’t know how I didn’t set off car alarms just by walking by, or why dogs didn’t bark at me because of the high-frequency buzz coming off of me, or that I didn’t cause all light bulbs to blow up.  I was always rocking my teeth back and forth against each other; my knee was always bouncing.  People would comment on this bouncing knee.  “Nervous?” they would joke.  I don’t remember what I said in response.  Probably something like that I was cold.  Which was probably also true. I was always cold.  We called it being a freeze-baby.

I wouldn’t argue if you accused me of being melodramatic.  I know what all of this sounds like; the desperate attempt at a haunting yet redemptive memoir, a riveting turned cathartic Hallmark movie… I suppose in part this is because I am a writer and I have to get you to sympathize with what I am saying.  I do admit that I tend towards the sensational in a rather low key kind of way, if that is allowed.  It would probably not surprise you to find out that I am a hypochondriac.  And when I was younger I never tried to mask my brooding (what I fondly referred to as my ‘depth’).  This was unfortunate for the rest of the world.  I was occasionally outlandish and brazen but ultimately I was a sullen individual, not prone to casual conversation, and a lot of people admit that they did not find me to be friendly.  Unless we were actually friends.  Because I was what the times referred to as ’emo’ this made me kind of proud.  As an adult, I am really embarrassed about this.  I guess looking back I can say that the ’emo’ phase ended after I entered the military at the ripe old age of seventeen, and it transformed into recklessness and various forms of lunacy.  By the time I got out of the military at the ripe old age of twenty-two I was an actual stone instead of a person, and this was to save everyone and mostly myself from what was going on inside of me.

Thank goodness I began to be tired of it all.  I wasn’t an imbecile.  I knew that I needed help, but I flat-out forbade myself from seeking it.  I was completely against the stigma.  Been there done that.  Unfortunately, the practitioners I had seen as a teenager probably thought I was pathetic.  Even though they called themselves child psychologists, I don’t think they knew much about teenagers.  They barely tried to tap into me and were happy to prescribe my pills.  I lied to them a lot.

It was kind of a miracle that I wound up telling the physician that I didn’t care if I drove my car into a tree.

It kind of just came out.

Before you roll your eyes, it wasn’t a melodramatic moment at all.  It was actually really casual.  She was asking the questions she was supposed to ask, and I think I just sighed in resignation and said, “Well, ma’am, quality of life really isn’t that great right now, considering I wouldn’t even mind if my car wound up driving into a tree.”  I’m sure I smiled apologetically, and she didn’t write down “watches too many romance movies.”  She put down her pen and began a conversation with me about what could be done to get it taken care of.

After reading about creation week, the story picks up in the garden of Eden.

It makes sense to me why no one knows exactly where this garden was (or is). Just because we don’t have some coordinates for it doesn’t mean that it never existed. As a matter of fact, it seems that a physical place on this physical planet where human beings were in actual, physical communion with God, in perfection, would forever be unreachable.

Of course there is a common belief about the general area. Like it was for sure in the Middle East. The Bible tells us that it was in the ‘east’, and how a river flowed from it and then broke off into four other rivers. It would seem that we should be able to trace these rivers back to a point of origin, but Martin Luther made the observation that the pathways of said rivers, and all other topography, would have been obliterated by Noah’s flood. As it stands now, only two of the rivers can be identified with any type of certainty.

It is safe to say that the exact location of Eden will remain a mystery until the time when all mysteries will be revealed.
The author sees fit to pack a ton of information into this second chapter. [And of course it doesn’t stop there. We have thousands of years crammed into the Bible. Hello, the entire creation of the world is comprised of thirty-one verses! It’s no wonder that we get so much going on in so few words. All the more reason to tread carefully, right?].

Genesis 2 closes up the creation week, gives another name for Elohim, introduces mankind, moves man into the garden, sets man up with his ‘house’ rules, puts man to work, and then introduces him to womankind.

But before we can move on from creation week, I need to make a special announcement, and so here it is: the first chapter of Genesis is a set-up for the second chapter, and the second chapter goes in and expands on certain parts of the first chapter.
I point this out because people like to try and say that what the Bible talks about in Genesis 2 doesn’t match up with Genesis 1 and so there are loopholes in the Bible. Well, I’m telling you right now that there aren’t loopholes, and there isn’t even any room for speculation.  The words that were chosen were chosen for a reason, and we must read them as they were meant to be read.

Since verses 1-3 of chapter 2 finish up creation week, and we’ve already talked about that, we will pick up in verse 4.

Let’s begin.

“These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.” Genesis 2:4

This verse gave me a hard time, which gave me a hard time with the verses that followed, and I will tell you why.
I didn’t even realize that verse 4 was the problem because I was spinning around and around verses 5-7. I was spinning around and around verses 5-7 because my brain was automatically skipping over verse 4, and I had no idea it was all because of one word.


My brain didn’t like this word. I was thinking about it in the context of family trees and since that didn’t apply to what I was reading, because man and woman had barely been created and all, I was subconsciously looking for the answer elsewhere.

This is a no-no.

What resulted from me ignoring verse 4 was me spending a really long time trying to figure out what was going on with verses 5-7, and by long time I mean a long time. Like a couple hours. On just two verses. Two verses that are basically simple when the verse in front of them is understood.

So by and by I began to take my time, and went back and deliberated each character, and I was praying for guidance and clarity, and my eyes came to rest on that word: generations.

Ah, there you are, my elusive troublemaker.

Once I had identified the hang-up I was able to do what I do best: finding out what it meant.

By looking at several other translations, and using my lexicon, I came to understand that ‘generations’ meant ‘geneology’ in the broad spectrum of ‘an account of history’ and not in the more narrow one of grandfathers, fathers, and sons. I have found that it is really helpful to gain traction when I have options. At the risk of sounding patronizing, allow me to explain: the different translations of the Bible choose different words based on how closely, or how easily, they resemble the original words. We are talking about ancient languages, here, so some of us may want the most closely resembled translation, or some of us may want the easiest. There isn’t anything wrong with either. I read the English Standard Version, which is considered to be “essentially literal”, so that the reader can have the most original feel. There are those of us who don’t want to learn Hebrew and Greek, but we also don’t want to overlook anything due to simplicity. For me, the more complicated the better. This is what draws me into the Word, while it is the same thing that could discourage others (for these people, the more simple translations would be better for sure).

Look at it like Shakespeare. Some of us, like myself, love Shakespeare because we like how each word blossoms as we read it, and only by reading each word and seeing them all together do we find a beautiful bouquet.

Take this renowned quote from Romeo and Juliet: “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?”

When I read that my brain wants to embark on the journey of discovering what it means. I enjoy the play on words as Shakespeare continues to explore the metaphor of light, referring to Juliet as the sun rising in the east, and how everyone else is the moon, jealous that their light does not shine as brightly. To me, it’s just genius. It causes me to know in a way that is outside of my every day.

Then there are those of us who like the abridged versions, the ones who like to just go to the flower shop and buy the bouquet, forget about each word blooming in the mind. Because, really, all Shakespeare is saying is: “Shh! A light has come on in the window.” But a lot of people don’t feel connected to his words because the prose gets in the way.

Once again, one way isn’t better than the other. We are both getting the story; we both wind up with a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, and that’s what really matters.

But I digress.

So right at the beginning of chapter 2 the author is telling us that he has just finished giving an account of creation.

I know it shouldn’t have been that hard for me, but it was.

Did you notice what else the author said?

He said, “…LORD God…”

Up until this point God has been known as Elohim: the one true God, the Creator.  Suddenly there is this concept of LORD, which is YHWH in Hebrew. Without getting too complicated, let me give you a quick rundown. The ancient Jews considered the name of God to be so reverent that they would not pronounce it out loud, so they removed the vowels from the spelling. Clearly, YHWH cannot be pronounced. Biblical scholars have studied these four consonants and decided that the name was probably meant to be Yahweh, and in keeping with the Jewish tradition the English translations of the Bible use LORD.

The point is to recognize that LORD, in all caps, is the name that Elohim goes by in reference to His relationship with mankind. It is God’s covenant name. LORD, Yahweh, means “the existing One”. It is the name when we see I AM, like when Moses asked Who was in the burning bush and God said, “I AM Who I AM.” He is promising that He is Who He has always been, and will always be, forever and ever and ever and ever.

Why promise that?

We’re getting to that part.

God introduces Himself to the cosmos as Elohim so that not a single atom or molecule has any doubt as to why they are a piece of whatever they are a piece of, and Who put them there. With YHWH, LORD, He is properly introducing Himself again.

I know that it seems overly complicated, but do you see?

He is introducing Himself to us.

The earth calls Him Elohim, we call Him Yahweh, so that we need never doubt His existence, we need never think we are alone. It brings us back to why we, humans, were created, and that is for community with God.

We don’t see this name before humanity was created, and that’s because there was no one to say it to.  It might not seem like it because the phrase comes up eleven times in chapter 2 alone, but the title is used very rarely, and almost always in the Old Testament. Each time it is used it always reflects a special relationship between God and man.  Immediately after the creation of humans there is an exclusive and delicious covenant between mankind and our Maker, Who is still the same- LORD God.
The covenant was in the actual name being used: we treat God like He is God, and He will treat us like He is God. This is a win/win scenario every time.

“When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up- for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground- then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Genesis 2:5-7

Remember how I said that I was having a hard with verses 5-7 because I wasn’t understanding verse 4? There just seemed to be no reason for these vastly differing concepts to be used together.

Eventually I had to take out the entire portion in between the dashes and read it like this:

“When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up…then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground…”

Any clearer yet? I didn’t think so. But it’s definitely a lot less complicated sounding.

But this is a perfect example of needing to check other translations. The punctation from verses 5-7 was really killing me. Look at how the NIV puts it:

“Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth, and no plant had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

There. Now that makes quite a bit more sense.

You wouldn’t think that I would get so hung up on it. But I do! I just have to know.

Orginally I thought there was a lot of craziness going on. I forgot my original creed of reading what was written, and began to think that there was a lot skipping back and forth. Once I recognized that we were looking at an ‘account’, a narrative, I was able to take each piece and evalaute them and then put them back together.

Allow me to demonstrate:
-“Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up,”
-At this point no new vegetative growth had taken place. On day 3 of creation, God had called the plants to sprout up out of the ground, and He had equipped them with seeds, but there had yet to be actual germination of those seeds that resulted in little baby plants. In a nutshell, all of the plants were fully grown and there were no new ones starting to grow yet. I’ve also heard it speculated that the author is eluding to the time when Adam will later be cursed to eat “the plants of the field”, as opposed to the fruits of the trees already provided in the garden. I don’t think it hurts to acknowledge the presence of metaphor here.
-“for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth”
-For whatever reason, God did not send rain until He destroyed the earth by flood in the days of Noah.
-“and there was no one to work the ground,”
– God wanted Adam to work the ground. He wanted Adam to nurture the garden, and plant seeds, and grow more plants, and take care of them. He wanted Adam to experience the joy of creating and making and working in a perfect environment. Don’t be mistaken, people. Work is good for us. It keeps us focused, and what better way for Adam to worship God than to be working on what God had made? What more of a reminder that he was created, that everything he touched and worked on was created, by a powerful and everlasting Creator?
-“but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground.”
-God still took care of His earth. Yes, He wanted Adam to work the ground, and yes, He made plants first, and no, there was no rain, which is what causes plants to grow regardless of who plants them, even so, God provided a mist that went over the plants to hydrate them from the ground up. And I think that’s really cool.
-THEN God reached down, molded the earth, and breathed life into the human and he became a living being.  Wow.

“And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He put the man whom He had formed… The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Genesis 2:8 and 15

What I never realized before I did this study was that God created the man, breathed life into him, and then planted the garden of Eden. It was like he was giving Adam a present. I imagine that Adam got to watch the process of God making “every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” (vs.9). He watched God scoop out that amazing river which went through the garden, and not only that but he was with God. God’s own Spirit had breathed life into him. They were connected not only in perfection but in their similarity, which came from man being created in God’s image, from man breathing the breath of the Spirit. Both the Hebrew and the Greek words for Spirit mean ‘breath’. Coincidence? I think not.

I think our English translation loses the uniqueness of what has happened with the word ‘put’.  In verse 8 ‘put’ is a simple verb.  God put man in the garden, as in He picked him up from wherever He had created him and set him down in the garden.  Then there is a description of the garden and the rivers coming out of it. Then, in verse 15, the word for ‘put’ is a sacred one. It is the same one that was used in reference for when God put His people in the Promised Land, a secure place where they could rest (Deut. 12:10). It is the same word used when Moses commands for manna to be put in the ark of the covenant in order to always remember God’s faithfulness (Ex. 16:33-34).  We can establish that man was put in the garden to rest in the safety of God’s presence, where he could fellowship with his Creator.

Wow. Just, wow.

I mean, I feel like I see this giant smile on God’s face as He walks with Adam through the garden, “Here is your garden, my friend. I made you this place so that you could call it home, so that you could take care of it, so that you could have a small taste of the satisfaction I have experienced in making all of this happen…”

I originally assumed that taking care of the garden would look a lot like eating fruit and petting puppies. After all, if the world was perfect, surely actual work wouldn’t be a part of it! Thankfully, I came to realize that the first couple of chapters in Genesis talk about seeds and planting so much because mankind was actually supposed to plant the seeds. God made all things good, and hard work is good for us. It was part of the original plan! I mean, how rewarding is hard work? How much more do we appreciate something that we have built or cared for with our own hands?

Also, you know what, to all of you who are afraid of Heaven because it sounds boring to the max, if work was part of the perfect world than I’m sure it will be part of our time in Heaven, which will also be perfect. I think this is because the original word for ‘working’ the garden is the same one as ‘serving’. It is worship to the ultimate Creator to tend to His creation, to nurture it. God gave the man an actual way to express his love and gratitude to God, to fully appreciate all of the wonders of creation, and this was by serving the garden. Acts of service are such a good way to feel close to God, and it’s no surprise that the devil uses selfishness to keep us from identifying with our Creator.

‘Keeping’ the garden is the same word for ‘keeping’ house. Just because God gave Adam the garden for free didn’t mean that he got to throw his banana peels wherever he wanted. He was compelled to respect his home, which was an act of respect to the One Who had given him his home. I’m not sure who’s currently taking the credit, but Adam was probably the first person to start a compost pile. Especially since he was supposed to take care of the plants. Everyone knows that compost is the best thing to take care of plants with.

Imagine that God was giving Adam a grand tour of the garden. Imagine that He and Adam were walking through the garden, and God may have been pointing out some spots where He thought some roses might look nice, and He may have been explaining the merits of composting, when they would eventually come upon the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Dun dun dun.

Now, these trees are briefly introduced in verse 9, but the author comes back to them in verse 17, after saying how God put Adam in the garden to work it and keep it. God is giving Adam his ‘house’ rules. One of those ‘house’ rules is that Adam can’t eat from the second tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16-17).

Let’s take a minute to talk about this.

In a perfect world, why would God make rules? Why would He ruin everything and give Adam a commandment? Some people like to say that God actually created sin when He did that. That it would have never crossed Adam’s mind because Adam was perfect, but God just had to plant the seed, and planting the seed was as good as done. It was like God made an apple pie with the forbidden fruit in it and offered Adam a piece, and after Adam commented on how good it was he noticed that God was just standing there, shaking His head. “What?” Adam asked, “Something on my face?” “Dude,” God said back, “How can you be so gullible? You just ate the forbidden fruit, man.” And then God walked away and all of mankind was damned to hell.
If that’s really what you think happened, I’m going to have to tell you to stop being so naiive.

God doesn’t make mistakes.

You want to know why there were two trees, and why Adam was commanded to not eat one of them?

It was because he was created in God’s image. Imago Dei: “in the image of God”. Being in the image of God means we have free will. We would not be in the image of God if we did not have free will. We’ll talk about this more in the next chapter. For now, keep that in mind. And look at what happened like this:

As they came upon these two trees, God would put His arm around Adam’s shoulder and smile softly. “Here is the tree of life, my friend. Every tree in this garden is yours, except for the tree of life. This one is mine. I love this tree, and I’m going to share it with you. You can eat from all of your trees, but you can eat from mine, too. Now, Adam, about this other tree, I have something I need to tell you. This one is mine, too, but this one I’m not going to share. Because I am God, I know everything, and I am capable of knowing everything. There are things that I, because I am God, should be the only One to know. Adam, when I made you I had to make you capable of knowing everything, too, because I want to share the good things with you. The good things are so good, Adam; just look around! You wouldn’t know they were good, though, if you weren’t like me. You have to be able to know. Do you understand what I’m saying? I’m asking you to leave it at that. Know the good things with me, my friend. Leave the rest to me. Because if you know the rest, you will die. If you know the rest, we won’t be able to be like this anymore. Everything as you know it will cease to be. Everything is hanging on that, and I know it is a big risk to take, but I want to take it because I want to share Myself with you. I want to share all of this with you. I want to take care of it all, and keep making it wonderful and amazing. If you eat from this other tree, though, this tree of the knowledge of good and evil, I won’t be able to take care of things anymore. It will be up to you, and you won’t be able to do it, Adam. You won’t be able to do it because you won’t be able to give life like I can. All of this hinges on Me, Adam. It exists because of Me. If you eat from this other tree, you will take life from all of this, and that is why I don’t want you to have it. Stick to the tree of life, and we can enjoy all of this forever. Forever, Adam.”

It seems a crime to just carry on after such a scene as this, but we must. We must. Not to worry, we will get back to this in the next chapter, because that’s what happens in Genesis anyway.

All of this is still day six, people. You may have never noticed this before, but it’s true. God made the animals on day six, then He made man, then He planted the garden of Eden and put man into it, they had their talk, then God brought the animals to Adam to be named and then He created the woman.

People like to use the part about Adam naming the animals to say that the Bible contradicts itself. Mainly, people just like to use anything they can to say that the Bible is a load of crap. Studying these supposed contradictions has caused me to learn how cohesive and timeless it actually is.

Let’s take a closer look at what I’m talking about.

“And God made the beasts of the earth…Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image…’” Genesis 1:25&26

“Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them…” Genesis 2:19

I once heard an entire sermon preached on this assumption that Genesis 2 doesn’t line up with the creation account of Genesis 1, and the point of the sermon was to say that the Bible contradicts itself, so don’t focus on the doctrine of the Bible, instead focus on the need to make people feel loved.  I understand that the strongest point this pastor was trying to make was that Bible-beating doesn’t do any good, and I would agree with that.  However, discrediting the Word of God discredits the need for the Word, which is the need for Christ, Who is love (1 John 4:8).  Without a faith in the Bible we will not be able to love the way that we need to.

Not to mention, there is no actual contradiction.

Readers like to take the passages of the Bible at face value. This simply isn’t the way the Bible was meant to be read. You cannot read the Bible and absorb what it says just by reading it. You can’t read, “Who, what, when, where, why, and how.” It has gotten to be kind of a trendy thing to talk about ‘unpacking’ scripture, but that’s a pretty good way of putting it. There are stories inside of the words, and there is a point to each story, and the time it was written, by whom it was written, and to whom, all really play a part.

We need to read what was written, which means we need to learn what was written.

I know I’ve said that enough by now.

When it says in chapter 1 that animals were created before man, and in chapter 2 that God made the animals and then brought them to the man (who was presumably created first in order to have something brought to him) we have to go back to what we know about the Bible.  First, chronology to the authors of the Bible is never really a priority, and that is typical for Eastern ancient literature in general.  This is not my personal opinion but a historical fact, so if you are miffed by this we will have a hard time moving through the rest of the Bible. Second, English is a translation, which means it is our responsibility to be familiar with the original if we need to.

When verse 19 says that God formed the beasts of the earth and then brought them to man it is merely a reiteration.  The actual tense of the verb ‘formed’ (some translations say ‘had formed’) is pluperfect, which is the past of the past.  Pluperfect is the same thing as past perfect in modern day English, and of course that doesn’t really make any sense to us because we never really thought that the myriad of tenses we learned in middle-school were ever going to be that important. But when looking at historical translations these are seriously a big deal. We see pluperfect tenses all throughout these beginning chapters of the Bible, and it’s the same thing as adding ‘had’.  Basically: it refers to something that occurred earlier than the time being mentioned.  God HAD formed the beasts of the earth, and THEN He brought them to man to be named.

Enough said.

One of my favorite authors is Donald Miller, who wrote Blue Like Jazz.  I really, really love this man’s words.  I read and reread his books and the margins of the pages are covered in arrows, stars, parentheses, brackets, underlinings, and an outpouring of my own reactions.  For the most part I agree wholeheartedly with everything Don (can I call you Don?) says.  He makes sense of things that are hard to make sense of.  BUT, when it came to this topic about Adam naming the animals, I had to disagree.  He was speculating that it must have taken Adam a hundred years to wander the earth, finding the animals in their habitats so that he could name them, and that as he went from place to place and saw these pairs of animals he began to know that he was a solitary creature, and so when God made Eve he was capable of being thankful for her.

In all of this, Don was making the point about how often we get so sidetracked in studying the Bible that we forget to read the Bible.


But when we read the Bible we need to read what it actually says.

“Now…the LORD God… brought [the animals] to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name…But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man He made into a woman and brought her to the man.” Genesis 2:19-22

It says God created the animals, and then God brought the animals to Adam to be named, and then God made woman. Since we know that both man and woman were made on day six, we know that Adam had to have named the animals on day six too.

Basically, it didn’t take Adam a hundred years to name the animals. Adam didn’t climb mountains and cross deserts, becoming old and tough as leather, growing out a heinous beard and staining his teeth from chewing on black walnuts as he wandered.
Verse 19 specifically says that God brought the animals to Adam to be named. There is no indication that there was any effort involved, and I think that’s so cool.  I think Adam was probably feeling pretty awesome, seeing all of these strange and wondrous creatures, getting to meet them and then name them. And since a horse is a horse is a horse, and there was no such thing as breeds back then, it probably only took a few hours max.

Also, Adam had no needs.  He was living with God!  He may have recognized that there was no creature like himself, but he didn’t know what it was like to long for someone.  We know what it feels like to be separated from somebody, but Adam had no idea what that felt like.

Adam very well could have been curious about being the only one of his kind. I’m sure he probably asked God if there was anyone else like him. But I think it was impossible for Adam to feel an emptiness without Eve, same as I won’t need anyone other than God when I get to Heaven.  That may be hard to wrap our minds around, but I really believe that I will know my husband in Heaven, and he will know me, but the expectations of our relationship will be completely overcome by our reverence and worship for God.  We will cease to be married because our purpose in Heaven will not be to nurture one another but to be in the Father’s presence.  That’s really something serious.  It’s terrifying, and exhilerating, and kind of makes me want to throw up, but I accept it’s not something I can fully understand because I’m not there yet.

Also, God didn’t “forget” to make Eve.  The story in Genesis reflects a process that the reader can digest, since we will never know what Adam and Eve experienced (i.e. the perfection of living in Eden in communion with the LORD God).  I do think that it wasn’t a mistake that Eve was created after Adam saw that there was no one else like him.  I’m sure when he opened his eyes and saw her, recognizing her pieces and parts, he was thrilled.  As a matter of fact, the very first words we hear out of Adam are poetry:

“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Genesis 2:23

Donald Miller goes on and on in his books about how we can feel the Bible when we are willing for it to talk to us.  How the Bible is so much better when we feel it. And I love that, because it’s so true. When Don says that he points out that evolution makes no sense because there is no explanation for love. This is probably my favorite thing that I have ever read in all of his books. Because it’s so true. Man was made by God, woman was made from a piece of man, and so the two are meant to be one, same as we are meant to be one with God. Same as He gave us free will when He made, because He made us in His image. He also gave us love, because that is also part of Who He is. God putting that love in us is perhaps our greatest testament to the Word of God.

I think that’s a perfect way to wrap up this second chapter.

Throughout the Bible we see the same story being told over and over again.

Perhaps this is because history just repeats itself.  The same events are being recorded, only with ever more modern themes.  I think this points to the blatant fact that human beings are inherently the same.  We have the same instincts, the same natural inclinations, and we are always trying to fight them and each other.  Even in this age of elevated thinking and heightened awareness (uber, if you will), we still see countries trying to dominate one another, and people groups trying to stamp out their competitors.  People still buy and sell their own kind, for various purposes and, overall, we are still doing unthinkable things for unthinkable reasons.

The process behind Noah’s flood really isn’t that hard to digest.

We just think it is because it will never happen again.

[If you are interested in the actual science behind the flood account, I can point you in the direction of an amazing organization called Answers in Genesis.  You will find any and all answers to absolutely every question you could have, especially when it comes to science and apologetics relating to the accounts throughout Genesis, particularly the first few chapters.  It’s truly fascinating material> answersingenesis.com]

We get to boast and brag and complain about a flood that wiped out humankind because we have the promise, from God Himself, that it will never happen again.

Right now, though, I’m going to talk about the spiritual side.

Regardless of our religious affiliation or background the majority of us probably know the story of Noah.  God tells Noah to build an ark, the animals go in two by two, the floods go up and the rains come down, and everyone but Noah and his family die.  We sing the cute song with the hand motions, and we see the terrifying images in the storybooks from the 60s of hundreds of naked people clinging to the craggy tops of mountains, the very last pieces of land.  It’s kind of weird that we smile and laugh and dance with our children about it: it really is the stuff of nightmares.  I think it’s easy to sing the song.  But this was the real deal, and I don’t think Noah and his family were lounging on cushions discussing their new world resolutions as the great deluge raged about them.  They probably really wanted to save people.  Like really, really bad.  I think only the absolute worst kind of person wouldn’t want to start hauling the lost people up onto the boat.  Which is exactly why it wasn’t the worst kind of person being saved.  I think Noah and his family probably had nightmares for a long time.  After the earth begins to recover we find Noah passed out drunk, and I really don’t blame him.  But I’m getting ahead of myself…

What if the story of Noah isn’t about why God sent the flood, but why He chose to save Noah?

After all, Noah wasn’t just someone that got the lucky end of ‘eeny meeny miny mo’.

The author of Genesis is so incredibly specific about the way he/she writes.  This person used parallels, narratives, and wordplays constantly.  The average person would immediately become bored if I even tried to lay it out and make the comparisons.  We can rest assured, though, that the author is very deliberate in what they choose to say, and how they choose to say it.

We go immediately from Adam and Eve, on through the geneology, and on to the introduction of Noah.  “Lamech…fathered a son, and called his name Noah, saying, ‘Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands’.” (Genesis 5:29).

This is just plain astonishing.

The Old Testament is full of names that reflect the person’s character, long before the character would even be revealed.  The process for this is a mystery and a wonder, but I don’t think it was ever coincidental.  From this simple verse I get the feeling that Noah’s father was a believing man, and that he had a glimpse from the Holy Spirit of the part his son would play in the making of history.  He must have been the one to teach his son Noah the ways of God, since nobody else believed anymore.  I’m not saying that he was of the best person, since the following verse shows that Lamech had other sons and daughters, but it doesn’t say anything about their character.  As a matter of fact, they must have been just as wicked as everyone else because they were not chosen to be saved with their brother.  Also, we don’t see Noah being supported by any of his family, and that is just sad.

Thank goodness for Noah.  The story is really about him, and why he was so special.

The Bible is chock full of God being faithful to His blessings.  It’s easy to think of God as punishing people, but the very first thing He did was bless the earth, and bless human beings, and He continues to bless them even after terrible things happen.

As people we deal with emotions and reactions that God doesn’t have trouble with.  We think of building a project, the project doesn’t work, so we get frustrated and throw it out.  Thankfully, God is not the ‘giving up’ kind of God.  Aborting what He had made (i.e. torching the earth and sucking the life from Adam and Eve) would have gone so completely against His nature.  He saw what He had made, and He knew that it was good.  He would nurture it and provide a way, always.  Mankind was made in His image; the entire earth has His thumbprint all over it.   For all of those reasons it didn’t make sense for Eve to be the one to give birth to Jesus and have the great sacrifice be made during that time.  Adam and Eve had lived in actual physical communion with God.  They chose a different way.  Jesus came exactly when it was appropriate for Him to come, and thousands of years later we still talk about Him, and He still changes lives.

There isn’t always an answer that puts to rest some really deep questions.  We will never know the depth of God or His reasons behind things, until He actually tells us.  So I like to think of the blessings- the ones He keeps on giving and giving, no matter what kind of terrible thing we have done throughout history, or continue to do…

The problem with the world in Noah’s time, though, is that everyone was wicked.   Everyone.  And the word ‘wicked’ isn’t just some favorite Bible-ism.  It means ‘morally bad’.  Everyone at that time was morally bad.  We all know what happens when people have no morals.  Here is where we see that infamous term Nephilim, who verse 4 of chapter 6 calls “the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown”.  The Bible doesn’t really elaborate on what this could mean, but the explanation from Matthew Henry makes the most sense to me: “The wickedness of a people is great indeed, when noted sinners are men renowned among them.”  As a matter of fact, there was no hope for God’s plan of redemption since everyone was so corrupt.

Except for Noah.  The Bible calls Noah a righteous man.  It says that he walked with God.  The last person we hear about walking with God was Enoch, towards the end of chapter 5.  Twice in two verses it says he walked with God.  In fact, he must have walked with God right up into Heaven, because one day he literally disappeared and verse 24 says that God took him.  Enoch is the perfect example for anyone seeking life: walk with God.

We know where walking with God got Noah.  It got him onto the ark.

“And the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him to His heart.” Genesis 6:6

It’s hard for people to read this part, and I think many try to use awkward passages like this as a scapegoat for choosing not to believe the Bible is true.  It would surely be against God’s character to regret something because He never makes mistakes.  Therefore, we must remove the possibility that God got it wrong the first time, and wanted to send the Flood so that He could have a do-over.

Instead, let’s look at the things we already know: the author of Genesis constantly uses wordplays, it was his/her style of writing.  Also, God is an emotional God.  Not in the unstable way of us humans, but He feels things deeply and beautifully and this is how we find ourselves so drawn to Him.  We have to allow that humans wrote the Bible, and therefore the Bible describes God’s actions and emotions in terms of human actions and emotions.  God’s holiness must regret what sin had done to those created in His image.  He had an amazing plan for the earth, and for living in communion with all of His creation.  His heart was surely broken.

God had told the serpent that the woman would bear a seed (a child) that would crush the serpent’s head.  Jesus was going to come and be the ultimate sacrifice.  That was impossible with the way things were going.  You have to remember:  every single person was corrupt.  Maybe this is seriously hard to believe, but I don’t think it really is.  People were still pretty primitive back in those days, and not in a caveman kind of way, but people back then had nothing.  Literally nothing.  They had nature, and everything else had to be thought out, imagined, and created by them.  They didn’t have options, they didn’t have supplies, they didn’t have history to consult, they didn’t have the time to learn what we already know.  Already in the second generation, the second generation of all human beings of all time, there was murder.  It only got worse from there.  God even gave men a 120 year grace period to get their act together, which they didn’t do (Genesis 6:3).  God couldn’t let the earth remain cursed.  He had already made His promise.  So He had to make it possible for the promise to be fulfilled.  If Noah would have died, there would have been absolutely no one left with a heart for God, and there would have been no point for Jesus to come.

You see, it doesn’t matter what we as human beings try to do, God will always make a way to keep His promises.

Which is why the story of the Flood isn’t about God destroying the earth but about God saving Noah.  As a matter of fact, we don’t see a whole lot about the actual flood, and we don’t get any further insight into the other humans except that they were continually evil.

But not Noah.

Noah walked with God.

As we saw with the example of Enoch, walking with God literally means life.

The Bible says that Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. It doesn’t even say that he was perfect, it just says that he was blameless in his generation.  He was righteous because he chose to be righteous in a time of complete delinquency, and this saved him and his family.  It doesn’t even say that his wife and his sons and their wives were all that great, but apparently they got grandfathered in on Noah’s good marks.  In just a few short verses we read four times that Noah did what the Lord had commanded.  This was to include building the ark, storing food, and setting aside the animals.  Building that ark is what developed Noah’s trust in God.  He would surely need it for what was to come.  Without that trust he could not have been so patient.

I don’t think there has ever been another person as patient as Noah.  He didn’t even have sons until he was 500 years old!  It was another 100 years before the Flood came, do some math and calculate it could have taken up to 75 years (maximum) to build the ark.  Remember the part about people not having access to supplies?  It’s not really a surprise that it would take decades to build such a massive structure, and then supply it with enough provisions.  Noah and his family sit in the ark, all sealed up, for 7 days before the rain even comes, and the bad weather continued for 40 days.  Weather so bad that the tectonic plates shifted, earthquakes were going nuts, volcanoes were exploding, the heavens were pouring down rain (which no one had ever seen before) and the animals were probably going berserk.  I can’t even imagine.  The floodwaters didn’t even begin to recede for 5 months, and it took two more months before the ark came to rest on top of a mountain.  But wait, there’s more!  It was another three months (we are looking at ten months by now) before they could see more mountaintops, and then Noah spent some time sending out birds to check and see if the land was dry.  After a whole year of being on the ark Noah takes off the top of the ark (had they literally been sheltered this entire time?) and sees the land.  But it was almost two more months before the earth was considered ‘dried out’.  Even then, Noah waits for God’s command to leave the ark.

Noah is legitimately a saint.  Once things quieted down could you even imagine how annoying your family would have become?  I wonder if this is when dogs became man’s best friend…  At any rate, I hope this family was able to discover the hidden treasure of the parrot, or how much fun monkeys are.  This is probably when chess was invented, or even monopoly, which is why nobody really likes to play that game, especially not families.

This is where the part about epic repetition comes in: we get a condensed version of the creation story (it happens again with Abraham, and with the nation Israel).  God calls out of the ark Noah and his family, and all of the living creatures.  He then blessed all of nature and every living thing.  Just like in the beginning He tells them to be fruitful and multiply.

The first thing that Noah does when he comes out of the ark is make a sacrifice to God.  He starts off right.  He knows that God has spared him and his family, and he wants to honor God.  And then God blesses Noah.  Just like in the beginning he tells Noah’s family to be fruitful and multiply.  He tells them that they have dominion over the entire earth, just like Adam and Eve did.  He warns them, too, that the responsibility is not to be taken lightly: it is their right, as beings created in His image, to rule the earth as they were intended to, but to be aware that they will give a reckoning for their actions.  How many of us know that responsibility should not be taken lightly?

The rainbow isn’t God’s sobriety coin.  We aren’t supposed to look at it and think, “Man, it’s been so long since God lost it and flooded the earth.”  I can’t stress enough how in control God was and is and always will be.  We cannot think of Him in terms of our own reactions and feelings.  He didn’t throw a temper tantrum, or lose it on His kids like we tend to do.  He is God.  The One True Sovereign Being.  Remember, He gave mankind 120 years to try and turn things around.  This isn’t just chump change of time.  And He wanted to redeem the earth because He loved it and knew that it was good.  He didn’t want to turn His back on it.  So He waited, as a patient God is willing to do, and then He took action, as a just God is willing to do.  If He had turned His back on the earth I imagine mankind would have killed themselves off long ago, and I wouldn’t even be sitting at this computer trying to convince you.  It really is so obvious that the story of Noah is about redemption.  It’s about God keeping His promises.

The rainbow is another symbol that God has given us.  He loves to give us symbols, as reassurance to us because, let’s be honest, humans need a lot of reassurance  (“Do you love me?”  “What do you like about me?”  “Will you ever betray me?”).  God’s heart is for us, and so He works with us, and not against us.  Just like the tree was a real tree, but an actual symbol of free will, so the rainbow is a real rainbow but it is the symbol of God’s promise.  He doesn’t need it like we need the Serenity Prayer.  It’s not his count-to-ten, or mantra (“I will not destroy the earth ever again, I will not destroy the earth ever again, I will not destroy the earth ever again”).  It’s not the tattoo that says, “I got this right after that really bad time in my life so that I never make those mistakes again.”  In case you haven’t understood me by now: the rainbow isn’t for God, it’s for us.

Just as God established that covenant with all the flesh of the earth, covering it with the umbrella of the rainbow, He also wants to establish a covenant with each individual piece of flesh, if you will.  The animals don’t have free will, they don’t have souls, they are adornment of this earth, but mankind was made in God’s image.  We are meant to be in covenant with Him.  I have found that by sacrificing my own life to His plan, even though it will never compare to the sacrifice and trust that was required of Noah, that I too can be provided for and spared the ultimate death that will inevitably separate us all unless we choose a different way.

It’s church, people.  Or, it could also be “Christian”, since Christians and church generally go hand in hand.  Technically, Christians are the church.  It’s not the physical structure that people meet at, it’s the body of believers that come together.  Therefore, you can have a “church” in the middle of a pasture, or in an old movie theater, or in your living room.  The point is the people, coming together in the name of God.

And why is that?  Why not just have private devotions?  Why actually get together on a regular basis in the same place?

Because God designed the church.

So what is it?  And why did He do it?  And what does that mean for a Christian?

It seems that the people who have bad experiences in a church (or, heaven forbid, churches), or who do not know much about it, think that it is unnecessary.

Than why does it exist?  Better yet, why does it thrive?  Why do people risk their lives to meet in secret?  Regardless of the persecution of the church, and Christianity, regardless of how it is misunderstood, people continue to step through its doors, helping hands continue to reach out, and lives continue to change.

To be sure, attending a church doesn’t get you into Heaven.  You have to have reached the understanding that Jesus paved the way and bridged the gap, that He sacrificed so we could go free, and to acknowledge that you are in need of what He did.  So, no, attending a church won’t get me into Heaven, but it is necessary to help me be an effective and faithful Christian.  You can say you are on the soccer team all you want, and even wear the jersey, but if you aren’t going to practice and making it to the games than you are really just someone wearing a bright shirt.

I’ll only take a minute to address that troublesome spin-off which is ‘denominations’.  In my experience, which I admit isn’t terribly a lot, denominations do more for causing division than for supporting doctrine.  There are less mistakes to be made, less people to hurt, when our main focus is on Jesus and not on man-made protocol, or personal opinions about such things as clothes and food.  That being said, I don’t condemn or condone any or all denominations.  The most important thing to be considered is whether or not the Bible is being represented and taught accurately.  If you feel that you are honoring God by wearing skirts or by abstaining from alcohol, honor away; however, that is between you and God.  Not between you and me and God.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

I have heard it said that if we want to love God we have to learn to love what He loves.  Which would be His family, the church.  God loves the church so much, in fact, that He modeled marriage to look like His relationship with the church. (Eph. 5:22-32).  There is no greater expression of love than marriage!  To be sure, the church has had several failures throughout history; even now churches fail to appropriately express what God has asked of them.  The letters to the churches that Paul wrote thousands of years ago are just as applicable to us today.  We need to keep in mind that wherever there are humans there is bound to be failure.  There are bound to be hypocrites in a church because there are bound to be hypocrites everywhere.  We all fall short, but the point is for God to teach us how to love and help one another through it all.

Denominations aside, the Bible doesn’t specifically say, “You must go to church.”  It isn’t part of the 10 Commandments.  The Bible also doesn’t say, “Don’t do drugs.”  But it does say that we are to be imitators of Christ, and nowhere do we see Him advocating for the legalizing of marijuana.  We do, however, see Him going to church.  We see Him establishing communion, which is meant to be taken in a group setting.

The early part of the Bible (the first half of the Old Testament, really) focuses a lot on laws and regulations.  You will see the word ‘tabernacle’ and ‘priest’, ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’.  There is a lot about punishments, and even more about sacrifices.  All of this was spoken by God to one man; his name was Moses.  Moses relayed this information to his people, the Israelites.  The Israelites were God’s chosen people, and that didn’t mean He loved an Israelite more than a Canaanite, but the Israelites were supposed to be a representation of what His people were supposed to look like (i.e. act like).  Since nobody knows how to do the right thing off the top of their head, it needs to be taught to us- once God delivered the Israelites out of slavery He sat them all down and said, “You saw what I am capable of, and how much I care.  If you obey my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession.” (Genesis 19:4-5).  In essence, God was asking Israel to marry Him.  Marriage is a covenant.  He would be faithful to Israel if she would be faithful to Him.  That’s how marriage works.  The 10 Commandments is the core of the covenant.

For the record, the 10 Commandments did not introduce ‘sin’.  Just because the 10 Commandments are the first ‘rules’ we see written down doesn’t mean that no one had technically sinned up until that point.  All sin has its roots in idolatry, which is putting something in the place of the Creator.  In the instance of Adam and Eve, they wanted to be like God in knowing good and evil.  Once they understand what evil was they were suddenly introduced to a whole new set of choices, and making the wrong choice on purpose is sin.  Adam and Eve knew not to eat from that specific tree, which is what made that choice the first sin.  The awareness they incurred is what established each sin after that, right down to the ones that I commit.  It is my responsibility to communicate with God to make sure that my knowledge of evil isn’t clouding over my knowledge of good and that everything is in its place, so that I’m not committing sins.  I don’t want to sin because I don’t want to take advantage of His amazing gift of grace.  But before there was grace, atonement, there was the Law.

The Law said that a penalty needed to be paid for the sins an individual committed.  Our sins separate us from God- He can’t pretend that we don’t know what we aren’t supposed to know.  In order to be forgiven, and restored to Him, a penalty must be paid.  This is how life works: you do the crime you pay the time, and then are released back into society.  God required innocent animals to be sacrificed as a way of saying, “Sin causes innocent blood to be shed.  I will spare you and receive this animal instead.”   The tabernacle was generally the place where these sacrifices were conducted.  It was the physical place that God could be.  It was His holy place, and when the people looked at it they knew He was there.

The tabernacle is not the same thing as the church.  Once Jesus came as the ultimate price the need for sacrifices was removed.  It was still practiced, as the culture tended to continue living the way they had always lived, which was under the Law.  The New Testament is ripe with conviction about living under the Law, which negates what Jesus did for us.  We no longer have to go to a building and sacrifice animals to be in His presence; His Spirit lives inside of us if we ask Him too.

So what’s the point of church?

The very nature of God’s presence is relational: the Trinity!  The Trinity is God in three persons.  The word ‘person’ is not to be confused with the every day term for a human being, but the philosophical usage which acknowledges that a person is a ‘rational being’.  This Trinity does not mean one God with multiple personalities.  It doesn’t mean that God is a man who had a son named Jesus, and then has a soul, like us, called the Holy Spirit.  It doesn’t mean that God was God in Heaven, He came down to earth to be a human and went by the name Jesus, and then after Jesus died He became a Ghost.  The Trinity means that there is one God in three persons.  If this doesn’t make sense than you are just like the rest of us.  If you have decided that you have made sense of the Trinity I can tell you right now that you are wrong.  God is not something to be made sense of.  He made us.  We did not make Him.  It is important to clarify who God really is before we continue on thinking of Him like we think of our own kind.

God moves specifically in a corporate setting.  He designed the worship service so that we could have the fullness of the experience [of His presence].  Attaching yourself to a body of believers is more than just showing up to a service.  Everyone has been given different skills and gifts, and these were meant to operate together for the good of the cause.  1 Corinthians 12 goes through this in great detail.  God established an entire system so that His message could be the most effectively lived out and communicated.  All throughout the New Testament we see the words ‘together’, and ‘fellowship’.  This is on purpose.  The disciples followed Jesus en masse.  After He was resurrected Jesus told the disciples to go and wait for Him together, not to just go back to their own homes and sit by themselves.  What happened when His spirit came upon them was the first church service: and it was amazing!  The entire book of Acts focuses on the growth of the church, and what an impact it made.

One person on their own can do some good, but when people common together with a common goal entire communities, even the world, is impacted.  When left to our own devices we always wind up losing a sense of reality, or urgency.  The entire New Testament stands on the back of the church.  The apostle Paul traveled and underwent extreme persecution and suffering to plant churches.  He knew that he was in a race against time.  If the churches weren’t built up, if people didn’t come together, then the amazing message of Jesus Christ would cease to be truly influential.

Going to church is a part of being a Christian.  It just is.  No, it won’t get you into Heaven.  But are you a Christian, or are you just someone wearing a bright shirt?

Before we explore further, I want to take a minute to reflect on a couple of very important verses. They are so important that they basically set the tone for the entire rest of history. It’s really true.

“And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’”. Genesis 2:16-17

What do you see? What stands out to you? Usually the only thing people want to see about these couple of verses is that God says not to do something. Let’s mature that approach and go deeper.

Well, for starters, we see ‘LORD God’ again. The God Who is with you is the true God. God has just given man dominion over the earth, but the author wants us to remember that God is sovereign.

We read about the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I wish there was something witty I could nickname these two because typing out and referring to them both is more tiresome than you might suppose. There isn’t anything clever, though, and perhaps that would be offensive anyway.  The important thing to remember about these two trees, thought, is that while they were actual physical objects, growing up out of the earth and spreading their branches and casting shadows, like any good tree will do, they are, most essentially, symbols.

Return to the romance of the Bible with me for a moment.

I have been learning a lot lately about how the Bible has been broken down to formulas and blacks and whites, when the One who actually wrote it wasn’t even that type of person. God didn’t use formulas for creating His amazing masterpiece of the world: I can’t even begin to list His ingenuities and intricacies. Jesus Christ didn’t speak or teach or live in blacks and whites. He told stories. He drew people out of themselves and into Himself.

The Bible is God’s way of speaking to us and through us, and I think we forget about that because we are reading the bullet points for our lives, making notes, and referencing the dos and don’ts so that we can think we are better than Adam and Eve.

The story of Adam and Eve isn’t a subliminal message, it’s just a story. It is history, and we should be aware of history. For sure to offer us guidance and guidelines, too, but, for crying out loud, the whole entire Bible is about REDEMPTION and not about how Adam and Eve weren’t supposed to eat from one stinking tree but they ruined everything for all time because they were idiots and so then there had to be murder and 10 plagues and lots of famines and the Romans took over anything and lambs were getting their throats slit all over the place, dogs are eating their vomit, and everybody has to buy a cemetery plot years in advance so people don’t have to max out their credit cards on your behalf when you die.

I LOVE, love love love, that the Bible is a book about knowing God and being known by Him and that it’s NOT a textbook. This idea lends perfectly to the concept of the trees being symbols.

Life is all about choices. Red shirt or blue shirt. Chocolate cake or a jog. Grand Canyon or Disneyland. God’s plan or my plan.

Let’s hone in on the very first words that God speaks in Chapter 2 verse 16, “You are free…”.

Enter free will.

Technically free will was ingrained in mankind when we were created, but this is where we are seeing it for the first time. Free will. What is it? The dictionary says that it is the ability to act at one’s own discretion. According to the Bible, we could say that free will is the ability to make choices that may or may not align with God’s will. We were created in His image, so His will is built into us.  As a couple bonuses, we have the helping power of the Holy Spirit, and the guiding light of the Scriptures. We are the ones who must decide if we want to align ourselves with Him- to reach for the outstretched hand of the Spirit or to ignore it, to shine the truth into our lives or cover it up. Perhaps most beautifully, I heard it said that we cannot make someone fall in love with us. No matter how much we reach out to them, we cannot make them feel the same way in return. And what a glorious, amazing, wonderful thing it is when they actually come to love us back in a genuine and real way.

I have always wished that I could give a better response to the dogged approach that humankind never asked to be created. I kind of just have to accept that nothing I can think of will appease someone who marches under this banner. I don’t really want to appease someone like that, anyway. These are the type of people that like to be disgruntled about something, even if they are trying to negate their own existence. I didn’t ask to be created either, and neither did my husband, and neither did my children, but I am so glad that we were. In these people my joy is complete, and in my heart I know that God feels that way about all of us, about all of humankind. I was reading a book the other day and the author was talking about this idea that his friend had, an idea that was actually pretty revolutionary in its simplicity. It goes like this: if God is really so powerful, so perfect, so amazing and majestic as He says He is, than the most loving and merciful thing He could possibly do would be to create a people that could also share in it.

Chew on that a minute…

Please do not be mistaken. God did not put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to be a temptation. Adam and Eve knew that they had free will. It isn’t about just the tree. The choice is always there. God isn’t a beating-around-the-bush kind of guy. He is direct, and He should be. Free will is a reality, and it needed to be addressed. He stood more chance of Adam and Eve wandering off and finding some other way to get into trouble than if He hadn’t said, “Life is made up of choices. I’ve designed it to be beautiful, please choose my way.” We don’t just cross our fingers and hope that our kids never hear about drugs. Not at all. We say, “Drugs are out there. People will try to make you do them. It might be fun to start with, but they can get you into a lot of trouble. They can ruin your life. Your life can be so easy if you just say no to drugs. I will do everything in my power to help you, but eventually the choice will be up to you, and I hope you are strong enough to make the best one.”

At least, I hope that’s what we’re saying.

We need to stop being mad at Adam and Eve.

What I’m about to say next is purely speculation, but I kind of think that Adam and Eve knew that Satan was out there, wandering the earth.  I just kind of think that Satan and his cronies weren’t that big of a secret- because why would they be?  And if Adam and Eve knew about angels who lived in heaven (and maybe they didn’t, but if they knew God face-to-face then did they know angels too?), then they probably also knew about some angels who lost their minds and were separated from God and Heaven and became the devil and the demons.  Therefore, they would have known that being separated from God was the worst thing that could possibly happen.

Maybe God hadn’t sat Adam and Eve down to warn them about the Big Bad Wolf.  Maybe they hadn’t heard it through the grapevine.  The Bible doesn’t tell us, but we are definitely introduced to the concept of “shepherding” for the first time right here.  Because Adam and Eve are meant to not only work the garden but to keep it.  The word for “keep” here is “shamar”, which basically means to observe, guard, retain in boundaries… all things that shepherds do.  Part of what a keeper does is make sure that everything looks the way it should, they need to make sure that everything is in its place, and they need to make sure that it’s being protected from anything that would want to harm it.

I think that God told Adam and Eve to “keep” the garden for a reason.  God knew that Satan is passionately obsessed with beauty- Satan just can’t stand anything beautiful. He used to be beautiful himself, and in trying to become more beautiful he became the most hideous. God knew that Satan would be after the garden, and even if He didn’t expressly say “Satan might come knocking”, He was at least giving them a sense of direction.

So we can get mad at Adam and Eve if we want, for making a crappy choice, but if wasn’t them it would have been me, or you.  We have all given in at some point, even when we knew it wasn’t right. And not just a society’s-standards wasn’t right, but a deep, in-the-pit-of-our-gut wasn’t right. We see God knowing what is good over and over and over. God knows what is good, and we can enjoy the same goodness by trusting Him and obeying Him.

“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden.”

Obeying God doesn’t mean we can’t do something: it means we can do SO MUCH. Instead of focusing on one tree that it’s not a good idea to eat from, let’s focus on the entire garden that we are free to take part in. An entire garden! Who cares about one tree when we have an entire garden?! But we do, don’t we? Somehow, we always seem to care about the one tree. I would like to challenge you to stop it. Just stop it. When you feel that rising up inside of you, that ‘what if’ and that ‘but but but’, just stop it. Just say to yourself, “Stop it.” Because the story isn’t over yet.

When we decide that God doesn’t know what is good we must decide what is good on our own, and that actually doesn’t work, because only God knows what is good. From the beginning He made only what is good. Not okay, not bad, not average, but good. It was all ALREADY good. And then came humankind, with free will. Would they say, “Yes, this is good. It is good for me.” Or would they say, “Wait, I want something else.” The creation of woman is the absolute pique of God’s goodness, and Him bestowing that on us. Same as God made man for Himself, He made woman for man. If Adam were alone there would be no one to share with. And sharing is a joy. That’s what this is about, people. Not taking, but sharing.

God is eternal, and He was willing to share that with us. When man decides what is good for himself he sacrifices that longevity. In every sense of the word. Even though God told them that they would die if they ate from the wrong tree, it didn’t mean that Adam and Eve would drop dead in an instant. It meant that they would move into their own autonomy, which would be outside of God’s original plan, which includs eternity. Death, decay, destruction, those were the alternative. Man didn’t really know that, but they were willing to take the chance.

It seems that we are always willing to take the chance.

My favorite author said that God created Adam and Eve with minds that could be so easily deceived because they were innocent. In one second he is saying that the two fell for a trick, and also that they committed a betrayal against their Creator. I guess this is all true in its most basic form. But I don’t think that Adam and Eve were gullible. Imagine this scene: I tell a child that I will give him a million dollars if he gives me his piece of candy.  He doesn’t even really know what a million dollars is, but he still gives me the piece of candy because he thinks he is going to get something better in return.  But then I run away laughing and yell, “Suckaaaa!” while he starts to cry.  I just don’t think is what happened with Adam and Eve.  I don’t think they were simple or pathetic.  I think that, since they were given the ability to make their own choices, that they were sharp, and mentally sound. They had been warned and well-equipped. They were strong, inside and out. They just made the wrong choice. They allowed themselves to be deceived.

We have to think back to the simple thing the author of Genesis doesn’t draw attention to: Satan wants to be God. This is his obsession. This very moment he wants to be God, and he actually thinks that he stands a fighting chance.  All that time ago, he wanted the key to the earth, so he made it sound like Adam and Eve would get something when they ate the fruit, even though he was really just stealing from them. Adam and Eve already had everything, so it boils down to the really heart-breaking truth that they allowed themselves to be conned.

This is basically the worst thing I can possibly imagine. I have grown up being separated from God. I know what it feels like, and I don’t like it, but I have never known anything else. I have heard people blind from birth say that they don’t mind being blind so much because they have never known anything else. Being blinded after seeing is something totally different. Adam and Eve must have been so completely terrified and horrified when the presence of God went from them. We went from God being in us and through us, like light beaming through a window, and then the curtains are drawn. Sin doesn’t mean we are all born serial killers, it means we are born in the dark, and we can’t function properly because we were designed to operate in the light. We can’t behave appropriately in the dark because we need the light to see, and to act how we were designed to act. Eating the fruit, betraying God, must have been the coldest, loneliest, scariest choice that ever was.

I am so thankful that God sent His Son for us. He didn’t want to give up on an eternity with us. He made us to share time with, and He wants us. We just have to choose if we want Him.

Why do we always act like God is crazy? We are made in His image. These feelings that you and I feel (longing, love, connection, friendship, joy), they are all His feelings. Let’s stop acting like God doesn’t know what it’s like to feel anything. The pain of Adam and Eve choosing the fruit is the pain of your spouse wanting a divorce.  It is the pain of your child saying, “I hate you”.  It is the pain of a friend choosing a different friend. In any age or stage of life, we can always know the heart of God because His heart is in us. Let’s stop acting like He is some grandiose, egotistical bullying manipulator. That’s the serpent. Anger, jealousy, shame…those feelings didn’t come until after that original sin. That is the ‘knowledge’ that Adam and Eve thought would be so cool. Those feelings exist because of the fallen angel, who actually was grandiose, who was the introduction of egotistical, who has bullied and manipulated all the days since his exile. Let’s start looking at how things really are. These aren’t just CGI-inflated, PG-13 rated, imaginative tales. They are real flesh-and-blood chronicles. When you take the time to open your mind, to break them down, you can really start to see that, and apply it to your own life.

If you are anything like me, you probably get embarrassed when you think about Adam and Eve being naked all the time- but not just that, they didn’t even have the decency to be embarrassed for themselves.  They weren’t even trying to hide from each other. They weren’t trying to play it cool, posted up behind some bushes. They weren’t even exasperated, like, “Man, I’m still naked?”  This is a really important bit of foreshadowing, because later, after sin entered the world, Adam and Eve were suddenly ashamed to be naked. This wasn’t the Emperor’s New Clothes here, where they thought they were prancing around in a cute sundress and a comfy pair of shorts and breezy v-neck, only to realize to the screech of a baboon that they weren’t. It’s not like a naked dream, the kind where everything starts to fade in and realize you are sitting on a toilet in somebody’s living room and have to act like you actually aren’t. What happened was that these people realized they were naked under God’s judgement. They realized that their good wasn’t actually good at all. The fruit didn’t open their eyes to goodness and enjoyment after all. The coveted knowledge that was to make them like God actually caused them to see that they weren’t even like each other, and they didn’t like it.

They actually took off the glory of God, and this is what left them feeling so exposed. This is why it is right to wear clothes. It is a symbol of how we have taken off God’s glory, and how we can no longer be in our original state. Our bodies must be covered until that time we can trade in these jeans and band shirts for a robe of splendor and righteousness. Only a husband and wife are meant to know the entirety of eachother’s bodies because the marriage relationship is a symbol of the relationships God has with us. This is why I get really annoyed when people want to take liberties with their bodies. They want to obey the rules of wearing clothes, but not really. They want to show as much as they can. Let me tell you what, there are a lot of natural things our bodies were designed to do, but because of how man took off the glory of God and traded it in for the knowledge of things like shame and insecurity we must respect the need to be covered, and modestly so.

Here is where where my favorite author got it so right. Adam and Eve got all of their security from God shining through them. He gave them their identity, and when He was around they were naked but not ashamed. As soon as they committed that betrayal the light inside of them died, and they became insecure. They had sold their identity. They didn’t know who they were anymore.

They wanted to hide.

It seems that no matter how hard we try, we can never hide from the truth.

They tried blaming each other. They tried blaming God.

I think people tend to imagine God getting very angry, and hurling apples at Adam and Eve. Heck, hurling fireballs even.  We tend to feel sorry for Adam and Eve because we know what shame feels like, and that guilt causes us to imagine a scene of violence and horror. We think that Adam and Eve ran skittering for the gates, with God screaming after them like the Beast screaming after Belle when he finds her in the forbidden West wing: “Get out! Get out! Geeeeet ooooouuuuttt!”

I wonder what we would imagine if things hadn’t become so visual in our society.

Would we be able to see what is actually written?

Of course God knows what has happened, but He is kind enough to help these foolish humans through the process. Adam and Eve have hidden. Normally, they would be in communion with God. “Where are you?” God calls out. He knows where they are, of course, but He is drawing them out. He asks them what happened. The spectacular part is that He listens, and He already has a plan. Before He even says anything to Adam and Eve, God curses the serpent. He says that the offspring of the woman will crush his head, and from that day on the serpent, the devil, is against the woman. He is trying to kill every baby, trying to demolish that offspring before it can demolish him. However, we know what happens: Jesus came as a baby, and through His death He conquers death, and the serpent is defeated. After Jesus dies on the cross He literally descends into hell and takes back the key to the earth. But Adam and Eve don’t know that yet, and neither does the serpent. It is all just beginning for them. Again.

Everything has changed.

Childbearing was at the center of Adam and Eve’s blessings (“be fruitful and multiply”). After the fall, the betrayal, childbearing becomes the means of restoring the blessing- bringing about the offspring that will crush the serpent’s head. Each pang of childbirth is not only a reminder of their foolishness, and how it is always better to choose God’s way, it is also a reminder of the hope to come.

Marriage was the first gift, and it too has changed. Since man and woman are now used to making their own choices, for their own gain, this will be at odds with the sacrificial design of marriage. Man and woman will struggle with one another, each one trying to assert their place in the relationship, whereas before they didn’t have to worry about such dynamics.

Before the fall, Adam and Eve were “free to eat”. After they ate of the fruit, however, eating would no longer be free. They wanted their own way, which meant that God could no longer divinely provide for them. They had cursed themselves into providing for themselves all the days of their lives. And it would not be easy. The luscious earth that had blossomed under the hand of its Creator would have to be coaxed to fruition under the unskilled hand of the man.

It wasn’t that God took His staff and pointed it at the man and woman, laughing as they began to foam at the mouth. He didn’t grow bigger with heaving clouds boiling behind Him, green mist coming out of His mouth. He got down on their level. He made them clothes. Even in the folly of their own choices He was helping them get established. He said, “I’m going to make a way.”

And He did.

First things first, Adam and Eve had to get out of the garden.

God couldn’t take the chance of them eating from the tree of life. If they did they would be destined to live forever in their fallen state. God was not okay with that. He needed to provide another way; He needed to offer another choice. There is always a choice. Verse 23 of chapter 3 says that God ‘sent’ them out of the garden. In verse 24 it says that He ‘drove’ them out. Maybe they went peacefully. Maybe they grabbed onto a tree and refused to let go, and needed to be escorted off the premises. I wouldn’t want to leave Eden either, and all that it represented. Either way, it was for their own good. And to seal the deal, to protect the unreliable humans, the tree was guarded by a high-ranking angel, and a flaming sword to boot. It was mercy and love at work; tough love, maybe, but I won’t let my son drink poison just because it breaks my heart when he cries. One day he will understand that poison means death, but until then he is just going to have to take my word for it.

Let’s go back to the beginning, when God knew what was good. Let’s take His Word for it, too.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

I’m so glad that this is how the Bible starts. It is the perfect introduction: there is a Creator, and He is God. He is Elohim. He is not just ‘a god’, but the God, and to Him be the honor and glory and power: for being the Creator, for creating the earth with us in mind, and then for creating us.

The origin of the world was so deliberate.

This beginning is not the beginning of time, but the beginning of a time period.  Time has always existed because God has, and time would cease to exist if God ceased to exist.  There was eternity, and then there was the beginning.  Now, since the ancient Hebrew language is complex and elusive, we have two options: “the beginning” could refer to a separate period of time before everything else began, OR it could refer to the actual beginning of the creation week.  One thing is absolutely certain, and that is that there was no other beginning before this beginning.  This word for beginning is the same one for “firstfruits”, which is a Biblical term for “the first of something”.

I find it interesting that the author separates “the beginning” from the rest of the creation week.  Because in the beginning

In a way, I like the thought of the beginning being the time before time.

Before you cry “heretic!” and ready the stake, I’m not suggesting that this was millions of years. I say this because nothing is happening; there is no life. Think of it as a prelude to prove a point. It’s just peculiar to me that the author mentions the beginning at all, especially since this particular author is incredibly deliberate with the words that he uses (I say “he” because it is believed that Moses wrote the book of Genesis. So lower your swords and sawed-offs, all ye feminists). Seriously though, think of all the other parts in the book of Genesis where we are left basically cursing the Bible: “that is all they are gonna tell us?”. For instance, there are seven verses that walk us through the fall of man. That’s it. Seven verses. There is basically nothing to the narrative about Noah building the ark. We skip over vast amounts of time in Abraham’s life, even though he is the father of all the nations. But just because the Bible is mysterious and elusive doesn’t mean that it is unknowable. It’s not about what the author of Genesis doesn’t say, it’s about what he does say. What he chooses to tell us is what matters. To me, the pause here seems to say that the heavens and the earth were created in the beginning, but if God hadn’t done what He did next (made them inhabitable, and full of His creation), there would be no story.

How many of us know that God loves a good story?

“The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:2

If you’re still with me, join me as we step outside of everything that this verse could mean, and let’s explore what it actually says.  In the harshness of its simplicity, like the most arid of landscapes, the beauty and complexity is breathtaking. We think that we see only desert, or tundra, but instead we behold an entire ecosystem.

There are no words in this second verse that suggest chaos. There is certainly no imagery of boiling particles and natural disaster.  What we read is the presence of the earth, but it was formless and void, or empty.  We know that the earth is not actually formless, and it certainly isn’t empty, so we take what the phrases mean in Hebrew and we find that the first half of this verse is trying to tell us that the earth was a wasteland. In essence, it was uninhabitable.

Intrigued?  Because this is intriguing.

In keeping with the theme from the first verse, that we must read what the author has written, we know that there must be a purpose for pointing out that the earth was in this condition.  The Bible could have just started on Day One of Creation week, but we have a chance here to really take a moment and appreciate what this ancient, archaic writer is trying to tell us.

You see, God set up the universe BUT He had not yet made it good.  The first chapter of the Bible repeatedly shows that God knows what is good for humankind, and that He will be the One to provide it.  It was part of the design, since the beginning.
What else was part of the design? The Spirit of God. In verse one we are introduced to God. In verse two we are introduced to the second part of the trinity, the Spirit. Ruach- wind, breath…  While Elohim is the mighty hand, Ruach is His living breath. And so there the Spirit was, hovering over the face of the waters, waiting for the Hand to mold the earth so that He could breathe upon it.

“And God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good.  And He separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light day, and the darkness He called night.  And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” Genesis 1: 3-5

This passage brings up one of the very first debates on the validity of the Word of God: Did this mean that there was light before there was the sun?  After all, there is no mention of the sun, moon, and stars until their creation on the 4th day.  Some say that the correct interpretation of the word “heavens” implies “sun, moon, and stars”. Their reasoning is that you can’t have the heavens without the heavenly bodies, but that the heavenly bodies were ‘formless and void’ until Day 4 when God made them useful, therefore “good”.  My problem with this idea is that if they weren’t made good until Day 4 they couldn’t possibly operate as they were meant to. Also, whatever happened to reading what the author has actually written? The author says that we have night and day on Day One, and the sun, moon, and stars don’t show up until Day Four. So I’m going to go with the author on this one.

But what does this mean?

Here we have Elohim, the one true God, who already pulled the earth together out of nothing. Creating light without the sun would not be impossible for Him, or even hard.  With all my heart I believe that He was introducing Himself as the light of the world. After all, when we get to Heaven the glory of His presence will be the only light that we will need to see by (Rev. 21-23). And when I look at this passage closely I begin to see something else, and I kind of think I’m looking at the first introduction to the third part of the trinity, the Son. In the New Testament, Jesus tells His disciples that He is the light of the world (John 8:12). Just like looking at the real sun, though, I start to squint. I have to look away, because my eyes cannot handle what I am seeing. I can never actually see what I am trying to look at. Are we being introduced to the Son, or is God just setting up the day? It doesn’t really matter, does it? Because we have what the author tells us, and that is good enough because it is actually good, and God said so.

Before moving on, I can’t pass up this opportunity to share my favorite description of this ‘light’. It was written by Donald Miller in his book Through Painted Deserts (if you stick around long enough, you will see that name pop up a few different times). He writes: “God makes a cosmos out of this nothingness…And into this being, into this existence, God first creates light. This light is not to be confused with the sun and moon and stars, as they are not created until later. He simply creates light, a nonsubstance that is…Light, then, becomes a fitting metaphor for a nonbeing who is… How fitting then, for God to create an existence…outside of time, infinite in its power and thrust: here is something you can experience but cannot understand. Throughout the remainder of the Bible, then, God calls Himself light.”

Need I (or Donald Miller, rather) say more?

When God calls the light and darkness to their jobs He is simultaneously creating the day. And by day I mean that He establishes evening and morning, and He calls it the first day.  After introducing Himself, after setting up the cosmos, before He does anything else, God establishes a framework for time.  It gives me some serious chills to think about how deliberate this Elohim was, and still is, and will be forever and ever and ever. If you take nothing else away from that, understand that God specifically chose to set up a system that the creatures of the earth would operate by.

Since we are reading what the author has written, and since the author is telling us that there was evening and morning and that they were the first day, we have no reason to believe that this first day was different than any of the other ones we find ourselves waking up to and putting to bed.  What is this strange notion going around about days being longer at the beginning of the earth?  It doesn’t make sense, and not making sense is counter-intuitive to what God was trying to do.  Doesn’t it seem so much more difficult to believe that the days were actually longer? I mean, why would they be? It just doesn’t make any sense. If the days had been longer then, the earth’s rotations would have been off, making life impossible, and the entire Creation story would have never been written.

It turns out that the author really wants us to know by the word he uses for ‘day’ (yowm) that he is talking about a twenty-four hour period. He uses the same word that every other author of the Bible uses when talking about any other day in the Bible. From this simple thing called a day comes the passing of days, the seasons, and the progress of life on this earth. It really is just that simple.

Now God can continue, because nothing else He intends to put on the earth would survive without the structure of the day.  A simple 24-hour-period: the foundation of all of history.  This is why it’s all so beautiful.  And to top it all off, He wraps up that first day by calling it good. He doesn’t say it because it is good by default, since He is God and He made it, but because it is beneficial to humanity.

Things are fairly self-explanatory from this point for a bit. (But just a bit.)

On the second day God makes the sky and the clouds.

On the third day He gathered the waters together so that dry land could appear. He called them ‘earth’ and ‘seas’.  A curious thing happened next. God told the earth to “sprout vegetation” (Gen. 1:11). I say this is curious because up until this point God is saying “let there be” and then there is. Why switch it up all of a sudden?  You know how I keep saying that the Creator is so deliberate? When He is assigning the vegetation to grow up out of the earth, and when He is assigning the earth to nourish the vegetation, He is establishing the system that is currently in place.  It started the way it was meant to perform.  Nothing changed with the passing of time.  It was meant to be a certain way, and it was made that certain way.  And all of those trees and plants were given seeds of their own kind, and we see that even the plants were meant to produce their own kind.  God called all of this good.

“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so. And God made the two great lights- the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night- and the stars…” Genesis 1: 14-16

At the risk of sounding redundant, I turn again to the subject of the heavenly bodies. I do it because the Bible does it, and therefore it is profitable and useful for teaching (2 Tim. 3:16). As a brief review, we already established that God Himself is standing in as light for the world (perhaps even His Son, but that is neither here nor there). The day has been established, and the framework for time has been set up. Now it is day four and God wants to designate that job to a creation. Why not just keep standing in as the light? Then all of creation would have no choice but to recognize God as Elohim, the one true Creator God. I think that’s the point. First of all, the sun and moon and stars are absolutely gorgeous, and we know God loves to make beautiful things (have you seen a weeping cherry tree? A blue bird? The Nemo fish? Niagara falls, for crying out loud?). Second of all, it is up to man to recognize that God is Elohim, and we won’t really be able to if God is standing in as light; if that was the case we wouldn’t really have a choice.

Prepare to be amazed, people.

See that part of verse 14, that talks about the separating lights to be for signs and seasons? The part that everyone just always skims over, including myself? That word used for ‘signs’ (‘owth), it means a sign like a distinguishing mark. It means that the sign represents some sort of proof. This is the exact same word used later on when God puts the mark on Cain’s head, so that no one will kill him (Gen. 4:15). It is used liberally throughout the rest of the New Testament as the token of the Covenant between God and all the flesh of the earth (i.e. the rainbow after the flood, the miracles done by Moses in Egypt, the blood of the Passover, etc.). The more appropriate, but indirect, translation of the word for ‘seasons’ (mo’wed) is ‘appointed time’. Meaning, it is sacred. This is the term used for when Sarah was going to have her baby (Gen. 21:2). It is the same term used for when feasts and holidays were to be celebrated by the Israelites, and it is the word used to describe whenever something pertains to the Tabernacle (i.e. offering sacrifices). They are both used over and over later on in the New Testament in the prophecies.

Okay, so I don’t actually know what any of this means. But it means something. I know it means something because it is written and meant to be read, and I think it’s just too big, too wonderful, too sacred for my puny, a’cursed brain to comprehend.  What I’m trying to say is that God didn’t just throw the sun and moon up into the sky like we throw up Christmas lights. The author puts that part about the signs and seasons in there first because we need to understand that God is the Creator of all things, of the day and of the night, of time itself. He is the only One Who can separate the light and dark, the day and night, and His sun and moon are proof of that.

One thing I know for a fact: it was good (Gen. 1:18b).

On the fifth day God filled the waters up with the sea creatures, and He filled the skies with birds.  He assigned them to each other, and He blessed them to be able to multiply and fill the earth with their beauty for all of time.  He called all of this good. It must have been such a glorious thing to watch the skies full of colorful plumage, and the seas roiling with the types of things only the sea can host.

On day six God created the rest of the living creatures.  Earlier, the author specified that the vegetation was supposed to come up out of the ground, as we know it does to this day.  Vegetation was produced from the land, but the living creatures were made directly by God.  The author wants us to recognize that the life of living beings originates from God, and is meant to be distinguished from the rest of the physical world.  And they were good.

The creation of the animals brings us to the second half of day six.

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image…” Genesis 1:26a

After the creepy crawlies and rolly pollies God takes a different approach. Instead of saying “let there be” He says “let Us make.”  Not only that, instead of being created “according to its own kind” humans were made “in [God’s] image”.  Not only were they like themselves, they were also like their Creator.  What a bold move on the part of the Creator, to imbibe His characteristics upon a creation.  Now that’s what I call sharing.

“And God blessed them…” Genesis 1:28a

No sooner did God create humans than He blessed them.  He simply couldn’t wait to do it.  He tells them to be fruitful and multiply, and this wasn’t said as a command, but as a blessing.  He goes on to give man dominion over everything on the face of the earth, and to reproduce and populate the whole earth, and to enjoy every part and piece of His entire creation.  Not only that, but He says that He has provided food for every kind of living being, in the plants that He took time to create earlier, and so nothing about existing and reproducing has to be hard.  Having dominion over the earth isn’t supposed to be work- God has already taken care of it.  Not only was all of this good, but it was very good, and the sixth day was over.

God rested on day seven as an example to us.  We were created in His likeness, and from then on what He does we also are supposed to replicate.  Resting is a service given by God to be given back to Him, where we take a break from all of the reproducing and having dominion and enjoying all of the vegetation, to be still and remember what He has done.  Why was man supposed to rest if nothing was even difficult or hard? I kind of see it as an act of service that keeps us in check, if you will. This is another one of those ‘signs’ we were talking about earlier (‘owth). This is to keep us focused on how everything we have is a privilege given to us by a sovereign God. To keep us focused on Elohim. We need to remember that He has done everything.  And He did it all for us.  The day of rest, which is typically Sunday for Christians, is not meant to be a performance, an empty display, or lip service…we are meant to treat this day as HOLY (Gen. 2:3).  We are meant to reflect on how alike we are to God, and to recognize the goodness that surrounds us.  Taking part in this rest is a willingness to be in His likeness, and it shows our faithfulness to Him.  The rest that He took then, and subsequently gave to us, will also be given in the future to those that are faithful (Ps. 95:11, Heb. 3:11).

Thank God for that.