No one knows what the body can do. -Spinoza

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Struggle, Vulnerability, and the Birth of a Brand New World

I've been reflecting lately on the idea of Bible as metaphor. To be clear, I don't mention that to discount some people's views of the Bible as truth, or to comment in any way on my own views of either Judaism, or Christianity. I quite literally only mean that I've been realizing insights can be gained for my own life by seeing some of the stories in the Bible as metaphor.

The passage that has really gotten itself caught in my head in the last week is the opening adventure of God creating the world at the start of the book of Genesis. The moment in particular that holds my attention is quite simply "and God said, Let there be light." I was raised with this story, and, generally, the times when I've thought of it, I have taken it to be simply a creation account, which, of course, it is. But recently I was realizing too what a powerful insight into our own human experience it can offer.

God said, Let there be light. But this implies that God is/was already there in the darkness. It seems like a common human experience that in the midst of loneliness, or suffering, or anguish, or shame, many of us tend to hide ourselves in some sense. Either by literally turning into a hermit of sorts and staying away from others, or by covering over our feelings with various behaviors that veil them from the vision of others. Many of us are quite good at "putting a good face on it." It is often the case that we even hide such feelings from those we love the most.

If we want to read into this creation story metaphorically, there is something interesting to be thought about how we deal with these feelings of anguish, or shame, or loneliness, etc. We might think of those feelings as our moments of darkness. Indeed, we often refer to them as "dark" feelings that any of us suffer through at times. The brilliance of thinking of our feelings in such a manner in relation to this story is that God is there in those moments already. As the Bible starts, God is there, already in the darkness, wandering around alone.

It seems like many of us interpret our moments of darkness as those times when we are most unworthy of the company or love of others. We doubt ourselves. We think of darkness as representative of evil, if we want to be religious about it. We may feel even greater shame for thinking of ourselves in such a manner, and so respond by hiding from those we're ashamed might see us that way too. But the idea I'm pointing out here is that if God is already in the darkness, there is no shame in those moments, nor any need for isolation from those we love most, or especially from those that love us most.

Considering how the Bible talks about God as the one that is always with us, or knows already what we will do, or has the power to change our lives, we could take up the image of God here as representative of the one we love the most. In that sense, then, God is already with us, even as we struggle. But, what I mean by that, in sticking to the metaphor, is that those we love are already with us, and they sometimes find themselves in the darkness too.

Many of us hide in our moments of shame, or as we suffer through painful transitions. If we can take the story of Genesis, and the creation of the world as told there, as metaphorical for our own human experience, then we gain the insight that we are not alone in those moments. That we can open to living our vulnerability, our doubts, our hardest transitions, with those we love most. And, that in doing so, we can actually choose to allow those moments of difficulty to be the most profound shifts we may take in our lives. That is, in allowing ourselves to connect directly to those we love as we struggle through the difficult transitions any of us sometimes face, there we too say for our own lives, let there be light, even in our struggles, and in so doing we open to the beginning of a whole new world in which we can live our lives.

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