When read as a primal story, Genesis 1 reveals the story of God healing the world, our communities, and our individual lives. But it doesn’t necessarily happen in the way we expect because Western society offers a vision of healing that rarely invites us live beyond verse 2. Moreover, because broken Christianity largely integrates itself with Western culture, it too is complicit in our creative stagnation. Let me explain.
As a refresher, when I say nothing is evil, I mean two things:
- No thing is evil. In other words, everything belongs.
- We do evil when we denounce or assault something‘s belonging. This could be your or someone else’s belonging. It could also be the belonging of some aspect or characteristic of yourself.
So in Genesis 1, the only thing that is not good is the nothing that God comes to. If that is true, then the Biblical notion of sin is about where we dwell. Do we hear the divine voice that calls everything good or do we remain in the void insisting something does not belong? Do we love everything or do we hold something in contempt?
This seems fitting given Jesus’ understanding of the commandments:
“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”Matthew 22:36-40
This means that contrary to popular teaching and perception, sin is not about our moral makeup and performance. Rather sin is about a failure to love. Sin as an action is something we do when we are formless and empty with darkness covering our deep waters. Sin is a place we denounce our belonging or assault the belonging of others in hopes that we might create a sense of significance. Put yet another way, sin is the watery abyss where we live by a spirit of power rather than love.
Born Into Sin
So when the Bible talks about people being born in sin, it means they are born into the void. And if you stop and think about it, this is exactly what happens. We begin in the comfort of our mother’s womb. There her body provides everything we need. If she takes care of herself, we only receive what nourishes us. For most children, their mother’s radiant love surrounds them. Others get to add the voice of their father, kindly speaking into their mother’s belly … early echos of a voice that will welcome them into the world. But then something happens.
An often violent expulsion casts us out from that place of comfort. At least briefly, it thrusts us into the void. You could even say, through birth, we are unmade. Suddenly we need those who would embrace us to seek us out. We scream to let them know we long for their presence. Our very survival depends on them coming to us and drawing us close. When it happens, their embrace saves us. The love experienced in those early moments can become a foundation that allows us to withstand a bevy of challenges in the years to come.
This is why modern-day psychologists often focus on attachment theory:
Healing and Fixing Are Not the Same Things
I deeply value attachment theory as it helped me make sense of my own story. At the same time, there was a long season where it prevented me from healing because I saw my attachment style as the enemy. As someone who experiences life with disorganized attachment, I thought I needed to become secure to be well. This need to fix me prevented healing because it turned disorganized attachment, something woven deeply into my neurology, into something that did not belong. This kept me trapped in the void.
The path to healing first involved embracing that I became disorganized for a reason. Shit happened. Some of it was done by people being vile. At other times people’s best was not what I needed. Then some shit that just happened. All of it came together to make me who I am. Fixing means trying to change that. Healing means learning to embrace it all as part of my story. It means learning that what happened to us does not define us, but how we respond to it does.
Once I learned to embrace myself (something that started happening when I realized God isn’t offended), I began to realize that what I once labeled dysfunction, actually has a superpower.
Two significant teachers aided this realization. The first is a bit non-traditional. It is Marvel scientist/superhero Bruce Banner. In the original Avenger movie, Banner described The Hulk as an uncontrollable and exposed nerve. However, years later in the Avengers: Endgame, he said:
A Fresh Take On Attachment Theory
The second teacher is a far more expected source. Her name is Brianna MacWilliam. She is a New York-based creative arts therapist who focuses on adult attachment. One of the greatest gifts I picked up through her online courses, is that disorganized attachment isn’t a curse. She doesn’t even call me disorganized, she calls me a spice of lifer. If that isn’t redeeming enough, here’s how she describes us:
As a Spice of Lifer, you may have a depth of emotion and passion that is hard to contain, and so creativity is something that appeals to you, even if you wouldn’t describe yourself as “artistic.”
You understand poetry. You really feel the music.
You can get lost in a painting, a book, or in a movie, understanding the layers of meaning that may fly over everyone else’s head. You may also be drawn to acting or expressive forms of art, and can really lose yourself in sex.
You are also somewhat empathic and can read a room like nobody’s business.
This is a power that may scare you, as sometimes you might compulsively wield it over others. If you wanted, you could easily manipulate people in order to get what you want…but then you may feel terribly guilty about it afterwards.
At the same time, this power allows you to show genuine and authentic compassion for another person, and this is typically what draws people in.Briana MacWilliam, Disorganized Attachment 101
For decades, this power did scare me. I wielded it over others as I desperately sought to make sense of my life in the void. I found myself trapped in the first words of Genesis 1:2. I “was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters.”
What’s the Point?
The issue was never my disorganized attachment. It was my disorganized attachment pulling me into the void so I experienced the evil of the nothing.
What I did not recognize is that the second half of Genesis 1:2 was also true. ”The Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters” that was me. And what the creative God of Genesis 1 always does, is heal. This God gives meaning and purpose to what is and declares it good.
When life feels like the void, when trauma strips your sense of belonging and casts you out where you find yourself denouncing yourself or others, the divine is there! God hovers over you, not to demean or despise you, but speaking the words, “Let there be light!”
Podcast: The Descent to Soul with Bill Plotkin on Conversations for the Future
While the audio quality is lacking, the content of this podcast is brilliant. Bill Plotkin is an eco-psychologist who has spent decades leading an array of people on soul encounters using his nature based map of the human psyche. My favorite quote, “Mature humans don’t do the things that make up Western history.”
Book: History of Time and the Genesis of You by Peter Hiett (affiliate)
While The Lost World of Genesis One (affiliate) first invited me to think differently about Genesis, Hiett’s work took it to a new level. Peter views Genesis 1 not just as the story of creation, but the history of the world and the history of us. It is definitely not what you would expect from a Biblically conservative pastor who still thinks of himself as a Calvinist (except God saves everyone). He’s also a friend.
Book: This Too Shall Last: Finding Grace When Suffering Lingers by K. J. Ramsey (affiliate)
K. J. is a therapist who also suffers from a sometimes dehabilitating auto-immune disease. In her first book, she weaves these two worlds together and shares her story of finding life and vitality (aka healing) even as her disease remains. And for the sake of transparency, she’s also a dear friend who helped me learn to love myself.
Take an attachment style quiz. This link will take you to Briana MacWilliams’ version. Ask yourself, “What might be the power that comes from my attachment style?”
Feel free to share your thoughts with me or on the Discord server.
After last week’s post, someone replied, “assuming God is the inflictor of both pain and joy makes it tricky for me to want to be with Him or Her.” So next week, I will explore that … specifically, “Is God the infector of both pain and joy?”