Welcome to my first “Watershed Wandering”. I am beginning with….well the beginning. My very first blog was posted on June 22, 2014 and it took me until July 22, 2014 to complete the book of Genesis. After reading over all 31 posts in one sitting some themes and common threads emerged which I will try to elucidate.
The first thing I noticed is that my blog posts early in my journey were very short and lacked some of the depth of my later posts. The average length of a post during my first year was 660 words and was around 800 when I finished my float. Of course the number of words is not necessarily a good measure of the depth of the words. The early posts in genesis were clearly dominated by more science than spirit. The spiritual “stream” was more prominent toward the end of my journey. This was one of the reasons why I started this blog – to merge these two divergent streams in my life. God has been faithful in helping me make connections that I could not see before.
A good example of this is the post I wrote about Eden in Genesis 2:10-14. I did not delve into any of the deep spiritual water surrounding this account of God dwelling with His people in the garden of Eden. My reflection focused on the physical description of the garden’s location and attributes. This is somewhat of a occupational hazard for me as a river scientist, but there is definitely deep spiritual water there that I did not plumb. Several spiritual questions came to mind as I reread it. Was God with Adam and Eve in the garden in the same physical sense that we are experiencing? Did God walk in the garden as Jesus walked along the shore of the lake? Was God’s presence both physical and spiritual at the same time as it was in the case of Jesus? Was God’s connection to His “first followers” fundamentally spiritual and only secondarily secular? So many questions….but back to my reach retrospective.
The first clear confluence of the secular and the spiritual occurs in the account of the rain in the time of Noah and the ark as described in Genesis 4:4-7. I came to the conclusion in this post that cases of what can only be described as metaphysical miracles probably have elements of both hyperbole and reality. These sometimes fantastic accounts were often intended to communicate spiritual truths which were difficult to understand from a secular perspective. The many hyperbolic happenings in Genesis require some sort of reconciling of the secular and the spiritual or a suspension of physical laws which I think is not consistent with other interactions God has with His people. God certainly does perform miracles and suspend physical laws, but it is always fundamentally about relationship rather than showmanship.
In the book The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis explains that “humans are amphibians – half spirit and half animal”. In this simile Lewis captures a concept that has been prominent in my entire float through the bible. The separation of the secular and the spiritual is a recurring theme that is personified in the appearance of God in the form of a cloud in the Old Testament, and as Jesus the Spring of Living Water in the New Testament. God, in becoming Jesus, became the only truly successful “amphibian” that could form a bridge or window between the secular and spiritual.
God’s story interacting with our planet begins with water. Pretty much as soon as there was anything there was water. It was formless and isolated, but with God and in some sense part of God. The water then separated from itself in a powerful water image of both the physical hydrologic cycle and as a metaphor for the spiritual separation between God and His creation that seems to have been around since physical matter has been in existence.
Clouds are both mesmerizing and mystifying as they form and dissipate in a dance that is in many ways like the ethereal intersection of the spiritual and secular. As I was driving home from work the other day I was transfixed by the seemingly endless cotton ball clouds so evenly spaced and in constant motion across the sky. It seems like much of our effort to connect with God and the spiritual realm is through religious traditions, practices, and disciplines. We are trying to fix the clouds and stop their motion. Something that is really quite impossible.
One of my favorite passage of my float is Genesis 16:7-16 about Abraham’s servant Hagar. This seeming minor character in the bible shares one of the most profound word picture in all of the bible. She is sent out by Abraham, pregnant with his baby, and God meets her in the desert. God provides the water she needs when she needs it and in return Hagar gives God a “name” – “you are the God who sees me”. This simple woman in the desert, thirsting for water, captured a cloud. God is not only the great “I am” but He is also the “God who sees us”, perhaps the only one that can really see us. All of our fears, anger, imperfections, and flaws God sees and he loves us! He is in the business of providing hidden wells for us all the time to satisfy our thirst.
It was about Genesis 24:10-19 that God really broke through my secular shell and I realized what this “walk with water” was all about – meeting God on a regular basis to satisfy my thirst. It is no more complicated than that – having a sense of adventure, praying, looking, listening, and loving with the knowledge that God has a plan for us and our lives and He loves us. The guide along this journey is the Holy Spirit and the “wind” that Holy Spirit provides to push our lives along to where God needs us to go.
Genesis 32:22-32 brings us the other essential ingredient in a successful journey – Jesus Christ the Messiah. We can wander through this world without Him, but in the end God wins either way. We can choose to follow faithfully or go our own way and take what God provides and use it for purposes other than those intended by God. Genesis 41: 1-31 find us with Joseph in Egypt battling pharaoh and his perceptions of who God is and where his true provision comes from, hint it is not anything in this world. God’s provision is not always obvious and come with significant turbulence which can sometime be confusing. It is in these times that our “connection to the spring” that is God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus is so important.
Well that was a fun and interesting journey through the water references in Genesis. It took me longer than I anticipated, but life is like that sometimes. I think God understands. The take come for me from all of these passages is that 1) God is present in this world in a form that is sometimes hard to see and pin down; 2) we can and should seek Him out despite this opacity; 3) God will find us in the end if we are willing to be found.
Prayer: God thank you for the loving us and providing for all our our needs, both spiritual and secular. Help us to seek you with all our hearts even when we are experiencing turbulent times.