Monday, February 27, 2017

I'm Jealous of You.

I confess to the sin of coveting. I covet my neighbor’s mother-child relationship.
This morning my daughter and I had two battle of wills, followed by her losing her temper. What were these great battles that I chose to engage in? Requiring her to wear pants. Telling her that we would not go to a restaurant for breakfast. Basic, everyday type issues.
I have a strong willed daughter, which means that I pick my battles very carefully. But it also means that my daughter is willing and able to make a battle over anything.
I’m not complaining about my situation. I’m confessing that I’m envious though. I watch other mothers interact with their children, and I am constantly surprised and amazed.
I’m surprised at the battles some parents choose to pick. Really? You want your child to eat with her mouth closed, and you’re going to fight over it?
I’m also amazed at the compliance I see in children all around me. Even a child a parent might call “difficult” is typically orders of magnitude more compliant than my child. They comply without stomping their feet, or grunting in anger. They accept the realities of life.
It’s hard to talk about this: to be open about this. I know I am subjecting myself to judgment. What’s wrong with me? How have I failed at parenting? Why am I being so critical of my own child?
For the record, I’m not critical of her. I’m proud. I’m proud that my child has the persistence and determination to stand her ground no matter what. I’m happy that she is passionate. I’m impressed by her ability to think ahead and try to manipulate me. But I’m also tired. I’m tired of wondering which normal request will spark a contest of willpower. I’m tired of listening to the storms blowing up daily. I’m tired of knowing that no matter what, at some point during the day there will be raised voices. I’m tired of imposing consequences. And so I’m envious. I covet my neighbor’s parent child relationship.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ten Questions About the Trees in Eden

I often think that in our discussions about the “Fall,” we skip over the most interesting parts of the story in Genesis 2 and 3. So here are ten questions to ponder and research about the trees in the Garden of Eden.

10. Why two named trees? Proponents of free will suggest that God put a tree and a prohibition into place in order to give us the chance to love Her freely. I accept this argument, but I still need to ask, why TWO trees? The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was forbidden, with the consequence being death, but the Tree of Life was never forbidden. In fact, God only closes access to it after Adam and Eve have their snack and get their curse.

9. What's up with that name? Hebrew is a simple language, so Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is only four words, but still, that's a lot of text. And it's quite a cumbersome name. We've got the Tree of Life, and the Tree-of-the-knowledge-of-good-and-evil. Up until this point in the text, the word evil has not been used. Even when God declares that it's not good for man to be alone, the text literally says "not good." (I'm talking about the original Hebrew here too, not a translation). So the name of the tree introduces the very concept of evil. Everything in Creation is good or neutral or not good, and suddenly there's this concept of evil, actual evil. Evil that can be known. Evil that presumably is known by God.

8. What does it mean to have knowledge of good and evil? God gives a prohibition to the man: don’t eat from this tree or you’ll die. But there is no judgment. It’s simply a consequence. There is no sense that the man will be evil or even not good: just dead.

7. Death is an integral part of the intricate and elaborate ecosystem that is the world, the universe, and everything. Without death, nothing functions. To say that death only entered the world as a result of the Fall (as some Christians do) is to ignore vast quantities of science and to ignore the very simple and inalterable truth that death is essential to life. What are we to make of the fact that death is an integral part of Creation, yet a consequence of eating from the Tree?

6. If Creation included death, and then God put humans in it and warned them about death as a consequence, does that imply that humans were immortal?

5. Or is questioning the mortality of humans being too literal? Perhaps the death is a symbolic death, or a death of innocence.

4. What if the real death caused by knowledge of good and evil is that it causes us to try and define good and evil? After all, at this point in Genesis there is nothing evil in the world.

3. Why doesn't anyone talk about the fact that we had access to a Tree of Life, but instead we listened to the serpent and ate from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil?

2. What would change in our reading of this text if we saw it as a story about human development rather than Obedience = Good and Disobedience = Bad? I've heard some people suggest that interpretation and I find it fascinating.

1. How DO we define good and evil? My 5 year old defines her will as good, and anything opposed to her will as bad. We believe we are more sophisticated as adults, but are we? Don't dismiss me too quickly. What do you base your knowledge of good and evil on?

Monday, February 13, 2017

What if Hosea Had Been a Woman?

As I examine the Bible, I'm constantly striving to rip away the layers of teaching and theology that I have been given. Recently I was considering the story of the prophet Hosea. Hosea was a prophet who was commanded by God to make his very life into an example of God's relationship with Israel. Or to put it another way: God told Hosea to marry a prostitute to show Israel how they treated God. In this analogy, God is Hosea, and Israel is the prostitute.
Now, comparing Israel to a prostitute is kind of God's go to move in the Old Testament, as anyone who reads the Prophets already knows. The point, made over and over again, is that God loves Israel, but Israel doesn't love God. Israel is constantly betraying God, and God just keeps taking her back.
Hosea was a man, preaching to other men. So God used an example that would get male attention: a faithless wife. Even now, a cheating wife seems to be a man's biggest fear. But what if Hosea had been a woman? Would God have used the same analogy?
What if Hosea had been a woman, preaching to other women? What would a matriarchal society see as the most compelling, most painful example of God's tortured relationship to Israel?
The mother-child relationship.
God would have commanded the female version of Hosea to have children. Go ahead, have a child. Give that child everything she needs and wants. Feed her the best food. Put her in the best clothes. Give her everything she asks for. Teach her how to be a good person. And then, let her rebel. Let the child reject you.
As moms, we know better than anyone else just how unending our love for our children is. It doesn't matter what they do or say, we will love them. It doesn't matter how often they reject us, we will love them. It doesn't matter how often they leave us, we will love them.
So what if Hosea had been a woman? Then God would have told her: Have a child. Let the child reject you. And take her back.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Fleeting Nature of House Work

After the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion, men and women began to leave the cities, journeying far out into the deserts in order to practice a “pure” form of the faith. They believed that the faith being incorporated by the Roman Empire was diluted, and only through solitude could they imitate Christ. These men and women were known as the Desert Mothers and Fathers.
I’ve read some of their writings, and accounts about their lives. They are largely mythical in nature, but there are interesting wisdom tales hidden in the stories. It is said that many of them practiced a craft, like basket weaving. They would weave baskets throughout the year, at least in the times when they weren’t sleeping or praying, and fill their caves with their work. And then, once a year, they would burn all the baskets, destroying all their work as a reminder of the fleeting nature of life.
I was reminded of this tale this morning, when I surveyed my kitchen as I began to prep my slow cooker meal. On Saturday, seized by a strange fit of energy, I cleaned the kitchen, and various other areas around my house. I don’t clean. It’s just not something I do. Oh, I keep a hygienic house. But if you did a white glove inspection you’d find a lot of dust and daily grime. But on Saturday, I was inspired to do something about it. I got all the dishes dealt with, wiped down all the counter tops, eliminated all the clutter, washed the stove top, and put out fresh hand towels. On Monday morning, it looked like I had done nothing, and worse yet, I hadn’t even cooked over the weekend!
This is why I don’t clean. No matter how much care and effort you put into cleaning a room, it takes hardly any time at all to destroy all the work. Dust falls incessantly. Things clutter the flat surfaces. Children play. Cats shed.
I am insanely privileged that I live in a time and place that I don’t have to work my fingers to the bone to keep my house clean and tidy. I grumble about the very little I do, when I ought to focus on how little I HAVE to do. Maybe I can focus a little more on my home keeping efforts as spiritual discipline – a reminder of the fleeting nature of this life.