*This post is the second part of a series on my growing honesty towards how I tend to read the Bible. If you missed it, you can read the first part by clicking here.
If I’m being honest, I think that years of hearing the Bible’s stories have shrunken my mind’s picture of them. I mentioned a particular instance of this in a message at Crossroads a while back. When I think of Noah and the animals climbing out of the ark after the flood, I can’t help but turn of on the mental “felt storyboard” and picture little pairs of disproportional elephants standing about six-feet tall and a couple of lions walking out slowly, enjoying the warm rays and the scenery, which is beautiful with lush green grass, and a perfect rainbow, and trees. But that’s crazy! More likely it was a mad rush to get out the hatch of that massive barge. The lions bolting out like cats-on-caffiene towards the nearest cover, and huge elephants barreling for the open savannah as elephants today would do. And the scenery: most likely some decaying animal (and human) matter hanging in the trees, post-hurricane debris everywhere, soggy soil that reeked a little of rot and mold… Not exactly the picture from 3rd grade Sunday school, eh?
Recently, I got reacquainted with how naturally I do this. I was in the creation story of Genesis—which I still find to be one of the richest pieces of scripture in the entire Bible— where we get a description of “the garden”. Now if you grew up like me, something similar to this should pop into your head: Green and perfectly round fruit trees all ripe for picking, Some lions resting in the shade innocently watching a deer graze nearby, A man who always seems to be positioned so that a branch shields our mind’s camera from his unmentionables, and a little creek running through the middle of it all. I picture the whole garden in my mind as a little bigger than my backyard. With the “two trees” always within arms reach for temptation. But when I read about the actual location of the Garden, at least according to popular geological consensus, it is huge! Almost the size of my home-state of Alabama and more encompassing than our nation’s largest national park! The picture above is Tahquamenon Falls. Located in Michigan, it’s one of the largest and most majestic wild lands on this side of the planet. But even that is shriveled by comparison!
And where do we get this idea that Adam just stood around picking fruit? Seriously? Now we know that he (and us too, but that’s for next week’s post) was commanded to tend the garden. Granted there weren’t thistles and “weeds” per-say, but with an expanse like the garden, he was one busy, dirty guy! Most likely he was always walking, traveling from forests to hills to meadows, constantly trimming and examining and pruning the land that God had entrusted with him. What a busy life! But also, what an adventure! I actually think that that sounds like a bigger, more fulfilling life that standing behind a branch, picking fruit, and somehow keeping perfect abs. And think about the job of naming the animals. It says that he did this and still didn’t find a suitable “helper” or mate. We can infer from other scriptures that God most likely sent him Eve when he was about 100 years old. So, he spent a good part of a century on this mission to find and name every kind of animal in existence! This wasn’t, as I always pictured, a one-day task in which Adam sat in front of a parade of animals, sort of spouting out random syllables with no rhyme nor reason. If we were to think seriously about it, it was is a courageous feat, a sacred mission on which a few have also embarked. Similar to John Audubon, Charles Darwin (uh-oh), Otto Muller, and John Bachman, I pictured Adam packing up a bunch of food and heading out into the unknown. Everyday he would search out new and wondrous creatures. Perhaps he would jot down their characteristics or draw them like the famous sketches of John Audubon. Then, in the cool evening he would look over his findings and come up with names which would accurately describe his discoveries. Again, what an adventure!
Actually, this Adam is starting to sound like a really interesting guy. I bet he had a lot of stories to share about that time on his mission. And it’s amazing how our minds can water down these events.
As we continue to grow in honesty, let’s begin to look at these old stories with fresh eyes.
— Next week, we will take a final honest look at how we tend to read this ancient text. This will be about the biggest filter we impose onto the Bible. It’s also the most popular filter we use. I’ve noticed it in myself. And when I see it in others (which is far too often), it genuinely scares the crap out of me. See you then!