Sunday Reflection with Charlotte.
READING: Genesis 11: 1-9
11 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward,[a] they found a plain in Shinar[b] and settled there. 3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” 5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” 8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel[c]—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
(Then a handful of begets and lineages will bring us to Abram)
Someone told me recently that the Bible is like a library. It is full of stories to explore. There are stories that resonate with you and ones that challenge you. Like a library, one comes back to the stories and books they love, but one should always continue to read things that challenge them.
So, I’ve been starting from the beginning. I’m fairly (it’s been a while), but I’m fairly familiar with the New Testament. It’s familiar. It resonates with me. It challenges me, but the Old Testament I have always found more challenging, even frustrating. Maybe irritating in places, if I’m being honest. So…I haven’t read it. In decades.
I’m finding it fascinating to reread the stories. Reading them from a more ‘adult’, less ‘resisting’ place.
I like stories. I like to think deeper about the characters and people involved. I even like to think of God, especially the very active, hanging out on earth with His people God of the old testament with some of the same characteristics we have as humans. For me, it gives life to the story. And it seems in the first books of the Bible God is very approachable and a companion to his people. He seems, also, to me to be learning every step of the way.
In any case, God seems in these first chapters to be very present and to have very human emotions: frustration, anger, irritation, and the like.
Aside: you might not read it this same way, that’s great, it only goes to show that we can all be reading the same book, the same story, and coming out with a whole different interpretation because we all come from different backgrounds and different life stories—I feel there’s a lesson there: same book, we are all similar people, living in a similar community, but I’m pretty sure not all of us are reading these stories the same way that I am, BUT we can still honor and love and respect one another despite, or maybe because of, this.
So, anyway, back to what I was saying.
After reading up to this part, it seems like God created this amazing creature and then that creature had this free will and then…would NOT behave himself. Second chances. Third chances. And no one behaves themselves. For a while, He even gives them just one basic rules: don’t kill each other and they still can’t seem to behave.
So, I feel like God has this very real emotion of being frustrated by his own creation. Because I believe ultimately in compassionate Divinity, I still believe that he loves his people. It’s like children. They misbehave, you have to punish them, but you still love them and are fascinated by them. Who’s not fascinated by what children do?
Here, in this reading, REREAD THE READING we have this story where it suddenly seems like there’s just too many people. They’re still misbehaving. And here’s what I found interesting (bear with me, it’ll feed into something relevant, I promise) he separates the people through language (we can talk about explanation myths, the influence of older gods, etc, but that’s not where I’m going).
He gives the people different languages, sends them on their way (this is in Chapter 11), and in Chapter 12, he chooses a people as his own. So now, there suddenly isn’t a ONE PEOPLE of God. There are lots of groups of people and God chooses to focus on Abram and his descendants.
His focus shifts dramatically in the story of Babel of chapter 11 into chapter 12.
God tells Abram to go forth from your native lands; I will make you a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, YOU shall be a blessing, I will bless those who bless you, all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you…12:1-3
Now other people are going to interpret this in a million different ways. We’re all different. I’m going to share what my thoughts were as I read this story. I’m not “right”, far from it, but by sharing my thoughts maybe I trigger your thoughts (whether you agree or disagree; have a similar story or a very different story) and we learn. We are reading and exploring a story together: maybe it’s a story you love or maybe it’s a story that challenges you.
I remember once hearing a story about a woman who went to live in a cabin in the woods, away from people, and meditate. That’s all she did. People came to see her and sit with her and mediate with her and they went home feeling better about themselves and their lives. They came back feeling calmer and more True. She didn’t DO anything.
She was criticized because she didn’t DO anything. She didn’t watch what was going on in the world. She watched the ferns grow and the flowers bloom…and she meditated. She made people angry and was told that she was hiding from the world and was doing nothing to make the world a better place. She was being selfish. And yet, people sought her out because she made them feel better about themselves. They went home and they were better people. They were able to do more good.
Was, then, she doing nothing?
Was she, perhaps: a Blessing?
Did, perhaps that blessing spread?
I find that I, personally, get really overwhelmed by the great big picture of what’s going on in the world. I don’t know what to do or how to make the world a better place. When I read about, or worse watch, what’s happening I feel powerless. Small. Hopeless. Sad. Overwhelmed.
I feel like this might be how God felt when He happened upon Babel. It all seemed so out of control. He realized, perhaps, that he couldn’t ‘fix’ it all. But…He could focus on a one people and if they were good then that good would spread.
My favorite line is: “And you shall be a blessing.”
God gave the power to bless other people to Abram. Abram would spread goodness for God. From his small core. From his relationship to God, he would spread God’s word and it would grow and grow.
I’m NOT saying that we should ignore the outer happenings of the world. But we should be wary of becoming overwhelmed, or making ourselves sick, by hyper focusing on the outer world. If the Self is not strong and good, them what good can you spread? Can you be “a blessing” if you are yourself sick or weak or hopeless.
And sometimes, I feel, there is lots of arguing and doing, but nothing is getting done.
What blessings are we spreading? As individuals? As a community?
I feel like it’s really easy to become overwhelmed and feel small and hopeless. But, we are blessed. We have this community of like-minded people to support us. That’s how I feel about this space. It is sacred space. We are the sacred space:
We dwell in God’s hand and
Go out each week to Walk gently in the way,
And Rejoice and serve and pray
What is that foundation that holds us? Each other. From our ability to understand one another, we can build our core and spread those blessings.
I think we already know God blesses us.
How are each of us a blessing?