I recently taught on the dangers and harms of judging others, speaking against each other, and elevating ourselves above other people based on James 4:11-17 at a worship gathering of my church community. As I read through that passage, and then through the whole book of James, another story came to mind. A story most of us have heard and believe we know well—so well we don’t often pay close attention to anything new in it.
I’ve been writing on that story here in bits and pieces, about Yahweh and Eve and Adam and Abel and Cain and about fear and shame and purpose and the patterns set and carried out through history. But I’ve been talking about the story instead of telling it. I told the story at that worship gathering, and now I’m sharing it here.
Read More In God’s Likeness
The year is 1996. A sixth-grade boy (Boy-Number-1) was on a school bus, and other students were filing on one-by-one trying to find a seat by a friend or at least in a spot that wouldn’t ruin their day. Another boy (Boy-Number-2), trying to explore what it was like to express an opinion like a man, overconfidently asserted something about women’s proper roles that illuminated much about the general level of sleaze he was being exposed to by the adults in his life.
Read More Buses and Curses: Gender in Genesis
I’m a counselor in training, and a five-minute video about what the Dougy Center is all about wiped me out. Not only am I training to become a counselor, I don’t just want to be a listening ear that then responds by teaching people helpful skills or goes through a surface level, manualized, step-by-step response. I fully intend to support people in wrestling with deep issues of meaning and purpose and rewriting the narrative they use to define themselves and their lives.
And death and grieving are going to come up. They just are. What am I going to do if I can’t handle people’s grief?
So then I start questioning myself, and the shame starts to whisper and creep in, and I doubt whether I can be a good therapist. Just imagine it. The first day in a session after I get my degree, someone is going to walk in and need to process losing their child to cancer. And I’m going to freeze. And they’re going to leave worse than they arrived. And I’m going to have to retire on the first day because in good conscience I can’t keep doing that to people.
It’s the same struggle Eve and Adam faced in the Eden narrative. A choice between connection and purpose and joy on the one hand and shame and disconnection and death on the other hand.
Read More Naked
So what role did this lying, terrifying, accusing character, the serpent, have to play in a world that is so whole and interconnected and luminous as the creation we’ve seen in the first two chapters? Everything so far has had a divine purpose and cohesive role in the beauty of it all. Why the snake, and why a tree that ruins everything?
To this point, Yahweh designated humans as his representatives, the idol in the temple of creation. Yahweh made it clear he intended togetherness and connection among the humans, between humans and the rest of creation, and the most intimate sharing of life between Yahweh and humans. Yahweh withheld no good thing and gave more responsibility to humans than anything else.
Read More The Beginning of Fear