Out of the Bag
Well, thankfully, I finally told my partner what I’ve been up to. She was asking me what else I had to do tonight and I finally just explained the whole thing to her. She spent some time reading my posts but she was super tired and didn’t get through all of them. I’m glad it’s not a secret anymore, and we had a good talk about my tendency to perceive disagreement as always being a negative conflict. I’m not sure where this comes from, but past relationships is where I’d put my money. It could have potentially come from my upbringing, too. I don’t remember seeing or hearing many disagreements between my parents, and I rarely had disagreements with my parents until I was in middle school or high school. At that point, it was always about something that I’d done wrong or been dishonest about.
But as a Christian, she is happy for me and she approves of this project. Now I just need to make sure I can set time aside. This might be a good way to help establish healthy relationship boundaries. I need to find and set them more than she does.
Especially because writing at the end of my day is terrible for productivity. I helped my partner move and that took up most of the day, and I was already tired beforehand. I had friends help me, and I got to spend some time with them, but it’s just not the same as having free, unstructured time to do whatever I want or even nothing at all. Some days I just want to be lazy and it usually doesn’t take very long for me to snap out of it. But when I don’t get that time, I get more and more backed up until I snap.
At least, that’s how it would work in the past. That anger will never get the best of me again. Instead, I was a mixture of grumpy and sad tonight and I finally just resigned myself to letting my partner leave me alone. We had our separate space, her to watch Netflix and me to do work. And no great harm came of it. Yay, I’m learning to not be crazy!
In Gen 18, Abraham is hanging out near the terebinth trees of Mamre when “the Lord appeared to him” (Gen 18:1). He looks up, either from a vision of the Lord or from hearing someone coming, and he sees three “men” approaching. This to me is immediately suspect. There is not a clear distinction made here between the appearance of the Lord and the appearance of these three men. It seems that some are of the opinion that these three are related to or actually are the three aspects of the Trinity in human form. Now, to me, the idea of a human form of the Holy Spirit seems to contradict the very concept thereof, but whatever. As far as I can tell from the literature, these are somehow divine beings, because they are here almost as proxy for the Lord.
Abraham bows and allows them to wash their feet, and he feeds them. Abraham knows them for who they are, and treats them well. I remember my story yesterday about the hitchhikers, and how I felt that they were more than what they appeared. Would that we could treat everyone in our lives as though they were angels in disguise! Would that we could recognize the Divine within all of us, and never seek to hate or harm another human being ever again. Abraham has awareness and a heart full of compassion, and his faith is rewarded.
God, whether directly as one of the men or by proxy through the man, tells Abraham once again that his wife Sarah shall bear him a son. Sarah at this point is long past menopause, being at least ninety years old, according to Genesis 17:17, and she laughs with surprise. Her exact words in Genesis 18:12 are “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” So, there is a possibility that she is speaking of the pleasure of childbirth and of being a mother. It also dawns on me that perhaps Abraham is having some trouble keeping his staff raised, if you know what I mean, and maybe it’s been some time since he has “known” her.
Either way, the Lord hears this and wonders why Sarah laughed at a proclamation of God. Genesis 18:15 reads
“But Sarah denied it, saying, ‘I did not laugh,’ for she was afraid. And He said, ‘No, but you did laugh!'”
Whoops. Don’t laugh at God. But God seems to have a good sense of humor about the whole thing. That exclamation point says it all, as far as I’m concerned. Had the line been
“No, but you did laugh.”
it would have come off as very stern and disappointed. To me, it’s like God recognizes her fear, calls her out for lying to Him, and has a good laugh about the whole thing. At least I hope so, since he doesn’t smite her into ashes and all. But on the other hand, a promise is a promise, and she has some begetting left to do.
The Lord or these men or somebody has a little internal monologue, it seems, in Genesis 18:17-19, related to whether or not He should tell Abraham what’s going on. So the Lord decides to tell him that the plan is to go warm up the old smitin’ muscles and lay waste to Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham sidles up to God and His fellows: “Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham stood still before the Lord” (Genesis 18:22). He spends the next ten verses talking God down from this whole “smiting” business.
Perhaps Abraham remembers his nephew Lot, who lives there, and would rather not see the whole place destroyed because of a bunch of sinners. So Abraham starts narrowing numbers, asking God if he would spare the city for 50, then 45, then 40 righteous people, and so on down to 10.
The conversation pretty much goes like this:
“Look, God, far be it from me to question your plan and all, but what about the good ones? You just gonna kill them all too? What if there were, say, 50 righteous people there?”
“Well, I guess I could spare the city for 50.”
Abraham cringes ever so slightly. “Nice, that’s good to hear. Now I know I’m talking to God here, but… what about 45?”
God sighs. “Alright, 45 righteous people, and the city will be spared.”
Abraham’s eyes narrow. “How about 40?”
Abraham continues. “Look, God, don’t get mad. This is the last time, I swear: What about 10?”
God throws up His hands. “Alright, alright. 10 righteous people and I swear I’ll spare the place.”
I guess I’m sort of dramatizing the whole thing, but it sure is funny to imagine. And I guess if you want to stereotype Jews as being good bargainers, well, here’s Abraham, talking God’s price down. I’m picturing this as a Mel Brooks scene now.
After Abraham and the Lord are done, God leaves.
The interesting thing that Matthew Henry notes about this chapter is that Abraham never begs God to spare the wicked their punishment.
“Righteousness only can be made a plea before God.”
— Matthew Henry¹
I see this story or the overall idea of God’s “punishment” as more of a “reaping what one has sown,” as opposed to the smiting and the destroying and all that. Wicked people bring unto themselves misery and guilt and shame, and as humans we are all born with a) the propensity for sin (Eastern Orthodox) or b) the burden of inherited sin (Catholics). So either way, we’re all sinners, and without repentance, we will reap only death and never harvest the most nourishing fruit of life.
I think it’s important to remember and to have a healthy spirituality that God will never do wrong. Man can take circumstances and make them painful, man can fill an empty vessel of an experience with negative emotions, but there is a silver lining to every cloud and a lesson that can be learned from every experience. This probably sounds like a load of bulls**t to those of you who feel that you drew the short straw in life, and I completely sympathize. I’m not there now, but I was for a long time. Between growing up with constant money problems compounded by my father’s unexplainable stroke at the ripe old age of 36, I felt like life was just going to keep kicking me while I was down.
I can’t really say what led up to it, but I’m pretty sure the episode with the Infinite Serpent that I mentioned back in Day 3 was pretty much the tipping point. That was the day I understood, no, I grokked the potential for suffering to make us stronger. That changed my outlook, and I realized that God was not to blame for suffering. If anyone can be said to be blamed, it is man. It is man with our free-ish will and our weak and cowardly hearts. We do so much harm to one another, and it can take a long time for someone to see or grasp potential benefits or growth from that harm.
But God or the universe or whatever you want to call the great Unity, the Oneness that is, that Consciousness has a plan. It may not be a plan in the human sense, but regardless, there is a beginning, there are an uncountable number of turns and choices and switches and changes, and there is likely to be an end. We are not just observing this “plan” over the course of our human lives; we are the plan. The meaning of life is living.
Somewhere a few billion years ago stars were born, and they burned and fused elements and then exploded and scattered those elements throughout the universe. And some of them, enough of them, collected in a cosmically tiny sphere of rock that burned and melted and stormed and cooled…. And those elements cooked in the hearts of stars became building blocks that could copy themselves, and those blocks made more blocks and so on and so forth, and DNA was born and several billion years later, the same atoms that cooked in stellar furnaces are what lie behind our eyes and in our beating hearts. We are the universe.
So go forth, find the silver lining to every cloud, no matter how close you have to look or how far away you have to stand. Find the benefit, find the learning experience. Learn and grow and know your own power. Begin to master your emotions and your will, feel the spark of the Divine that flows through you. The knowledge and awareness of Adam and Eve gave them shame and sin, but it also gave them the possibility of change and growth. We learn the most from our mistakes…
Go forth and learn! Become wise and find thyself, and you will recognize the inherent goodness of “the plan.” Accept what is, and be free. The true power of God will never lead you to weakness, only humility.
“SHALL NOT THE JUDGE OF ALL THE EARTH DO RIGHT?”