This is what happens after 8 months gestation: sleep ends at 4:30am, and paired with a summer’s early sunrise, I’m down on my couch reading by 6. But alas, there’s no one awake with whom I can engage my thoughts as I read. Not that Miss M has a lot of words to converse. So the unlucky reader that continues on shall bear such burden.
Warning: thoughts that follow are deeply theological and question the nature of humankind. (Note: I started to write “mankind” and switched to “human”. Anna G, I’m sure you’re proud.)
I started my morning with Ephesians; I was blessed enough to join a group of like-minded individuals to plan camps for several years and we used Ephesians 6 at least twice (and I believe it’s making another appearance this year, sans me. Not that I was really required in the first place). So this chapter is something I’m well-acquainted with; we read it daily while there, not to mention the months of planning prior to kids showing up with their flashlights and bugspray. But this morning it jumped out at me: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
I’ve always immediately jumped to the conclusion that this verse was trying to say: we’re not fighting with humans, but with Satan. And I think it does: it starts with “not flesh and blood” and ends with “spiritual forces in the heavenly realms”. So I think this is still a fair reading, but the Billy Mays in me says, “But wait! There’s more!”
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world… in taking a look at the context of the passage in the chapter and within the book, it follows a pattern of instructions to followers: Wives submitting to husbands, husbands doing right, children submitting to parents, slaves to masters, masters doing right. If we were to do a key word study here, we’d be underlining the word “submit” a whole lot. (I know, not a popular concept in our context). Then the passage leading into my italicized verse says, “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power….”
I see a theme that, from the view in my living room this day and age, I’m really not able to fully grasp. Submission… power… authority… in America? Ha. I’ve decided that when I just sit down to read this section, I’ve missed the first 1.5 hours of the movie. I don’t think we grasp what power struggles exist in other cultures and communities (including that which the events of the Bible take place). Nor do we understand how it was intended.
Power and submission and similar themes have interested me for a while, and allow me to intrigue you further by saying I went back to the start to find some supporting thoughts. I returned to Genesis to try to get an idea of how it was intended to be. By sitting them next to my Ephesians section, a few phrases stood out like the 6am rising sun: Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.
Interesting note that you may not be aware of unless you tend to think and read about food and biblical issues way too much: we (humans) did not eat meat until after the Flood. Though it’s been allowed since we got off the boat – so you can still confidently chomp into your burger – Adam, Eve and their immediate family were vegetarians. And, as I read 1:30, so were the creatures. “And to all the beasts of the earth…I give every green plant for food. And it was so.”
So, we are to rule the creatures. But not eat them.
They are not there for our sustenance, but we exercise authority over them.
My 20th-century American mind says, “if not put there for my own greater good, then why do I rule them?” What good is power and authority if I don’t come out the winner?
Which is probably the exact problem.
I haven’t done a word count yet, but I see the 2 readers still with me starting to fade, so allow me to make a large jump in order to wrap up with a few questions from left field.
Also common through the book of Genesis is the idea of creating order out of chaos; there are lots of structural arguments behind chapter 1 to support that (I’ll spare you details). So what if that was God’s intention of power? Creating order out of chaos. We are like God when we “rule” the land by giving order and purpose – meaning – to those in our midst. Validating their stories. Giving direction. Inspiring. I mean, isn’t that what the best leaders do, even now in our current understanding of power and submission? Don’t we tend to follow those who encourage us to live to our fullest capacity?
And did you really think that that when I was talking about vegetarian animals that we’d end up here?
Those are my Deep Thoughts for the morning. It makes me wonder, as a parent, how I am to “rule” the household. How can I inspire and instruct not for my own benefit but for the glory of those I’ve been charged with. And at work (though I don’t “rule” anybody there… but some people do. So perhaps they consider this.)
I just looked at the painting KLR made me so many years ago… I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. Perhaps that desire, that motivation, that understanding of power is what was intended. As husbands “rule” wives and parents “rule” children and masters “rule” slaves and people “rule” their pets, it’s less domineering and demanding a certain outcome but rather an invitation to join something that excites and fulfills and puts order to the chaos of life.
It’s just a thought.