Wednesday, August 23, 2017

My Grief Journey with the Book of Genesis

Greetings,

I begin with context and juxtaposition . The context in which we live and work makes a difference in what we see, how we understand, and what we do. I call it, “on the street where you live.” 

Several small groups have been reflecting on the Book of Genesis stories of Abraham and Jacob, etc. These stories were compiled by Hebrew editors when in exile in Babylon after the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 597 BC. My brother and I call them the Compilers of the Torah in our Canon of Scripture. At the same time we are compilers of our personal literature, written and oral, as we reflect on the work they have done and the revelation of God in their work. In turn we find God in our lives in new and different ways.

Here is the connection. The compilers of the Torah were in deep grief as a result of their being deported to Babylon. They were in transition/transformation. Bobbie, my first wife, died on the 30th of July, 2011. I was in deep grief, in transition/transformation. Life will never be the same after being together 47 1/2 years. Life is different as new discoveries are made, and I now have a new connection with the Book of Genesis and the Compilers of the stories addressing their grief and transition. The work of Compiling gave them a new sense of identity as the People of God, renewing their Covenant relationship in Story, Synagogue, and Sabbath.

The destruction of Jerusalem led to the Book of Lamentations. Many of the lament Psalms reflect this event. One verse especially, "How can we sing our songs in a strange land." Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones and the question "Can these bones live?" raised the issue of survival. Survive they did, and more than survive, in both personal and corporate ways. Their words now speak to me.

The compiling of the stories of Genesis put together in the first five books of the Bible along with the whole Hebrew Scriptures provide numerous Aha's identifying the benefits from the way they fashioned the stories. Promise and a future hope became a repeated refrain. God would be with them. "I with" are the two Hebrew words. Faith then was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness. 

Genesis means beginning in Hebrew. For the compilers of the stories it was a new beginning. They were being renewed. In turn they give me a new insight into the power and presence of God's Word in Scripture for the here and now for renewal.

The above addresses context. Now I will address juxtaposition. At the same time, to keep myself occupied, and to provide an outlet with people I have come to know at the Wayne Oates Institute, I became part of a distance learning seminar on Growing the Adult Brain. A book by that title of "The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain" was our discussion resource. Three weeks were not sufficient to cover all the book so I have been reading more since. There it was, "neurogenesis!" Research confirms you can grow brain cells. Imagination is a big part of growing brain cells.

We have this in our Scripture prayer, "to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest ..." And along with a regular exercise program making connections through metaphor and metonymy we can apparently make new connections in both the right and left side of the frontal lobe as well as bring changes in other parts of the brain. The research continues as we seek ways of having a healthy brain while aging.

My adventure as we reflect on the stories in Genesis, has a lot of potential for building community, growing brain cells, gaining a better understanding of Scripture for our Daily Lives, and living out our Baptism in mission and ministry.

This adventure in context and juxtaposition has moved beyond 2011 and 2012 to the blog in 2017. I give thanks to the Lord and grow brain cells at the same time!! As one of the Hebrew words for "bring you back" has shabat (sabbath) in the middle, the Sabbath for hearing the Word "brings us back" to what is basic and foundational. 

Shalom,
Marlin Whitmer

Founder of the Befrienders in 1966 and the Art of Story Metaphor Listening in 1975






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