By Beth Demme
If you’ve spent any time reading the Bible, you’ve probably noticed there are a lot of ups and downs throughout its sixty-six books. In its ups and downs, the Bible mirrors life.
Literally, this mirrors life. A normal heart rhythm is composed of ups and downs, peaks and valleys. Something like this:
We’ve probably all seen, either in real life or on TV, what happens when the peaks and valleys stop – the person flatlines. On TV this is always accompanied by an ominous high-pitched beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.
When our heart stops beating, we go from peak/valley/flat/peak to only flat.The Biblical story works on a similar rhythm, except the peaks and valleys aren’t as evenly measured as a heartbeat.
In the beginning, God and humans are in the Garden of Eden together. Everything is perfect. God and humans walk and talk together. (Genesis 1:28; 2:15; 3:8) That’s a peak!
This moment of perfection is only a blip on the screen because in Genesis chapter 3 we have the incident with the fruit. Eve, then Adam, eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and “the eyes of both of them were opened.” (Genesis 3:7)
In church-speak this is called “The Fall.”
The Fall is only the beginning of humanity’s self-imposed separation from God. If we trace the first six chapters of Genesis as peaks and valleys, we might end up with something like this:
Overall, things go downhill. Yet, throughout the downward spiral, the Bible tells us again and again that God is still there.
Each peak proves the relationship between God and humanity is still intact; God was with us in the valley.
That’s terrific news for me. I’ve lived through many self-imposed valleys. What a relief that my relationship with God is still possible, even when I make bad decisions or get lax on the spiritual disciplines that keep me feeling close to God. The valleys are temporary.
I know it might sound strange, but Genesis chapter 3 has become one of my favorite chapters of the Bible. The Fall is the introduction of sin and is not typically a favorite among Bible readers. I get it—I don’t mean to glorify the self-sufficiency and pride depicted in chapter 3.
Instead, I love chapter 3 (and the rest of the Bible) because it gives me permission to acknowledge my actual relationship with God, instead of demanding an idealized relationship.
When a story ends in a valley, we call it a tragedy. Despite the overall arc of this part of Genesis (and the rest of the Bible), the biblical story does not end as a tragedy. It ends with the restoration of the ideal relationship between God and humanity. It ends with an Eden-like situation: “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelation 21:3 (NIV))
The Bible tells me the ideal relationship is still possible, but it’s a future event (and requires God’s action, not mine). In the meantime, God is with me in the peaks and valleys of every heartbeat.
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