How Flannelgraphs Gave Me Hints of the One True Story

babel

I’ll confess.

I never understood the Sunday School story of the Tower of Babel. In my mind, I pictured this group of well-meaning folks, just trying to build a tower (sounds cool to me), when God hits them with this metaphorical lightning bolt of language-confusion, and they scatter like ants from a stomped-on anthill.  Oh, yes, I knew what my teacher told me – they were trying to be like God, it was a prideful thing to do, etc. But I never actually saw that in the story. I only saw people making a tower and God getting mad. Was it the bricks and tar they used, instead of stone and mortar? (The biblical account seems to make a point of mentioning the building materials, which made it seem significant to me.) And when God says that the tower building indicates that “nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” and so he’ll make it harder, doesn’t that seem a bit spiteful? As though God is jealous of their accomplishments, and wants to trip them up before they outshine him?

It wasn’t until reading it today, with the One True Story in mind, that the lightbulb flashed.

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Why Building an Ark also Built a Myth

rainbow

There are so many mythic elements that surround and embody the Flood Story, no wonder it has captured the imagination of the entire human race and been repeated, enlarged, and passed on for millennia.

But the biblical account – is it another myth or is it fact?

I will say this: it’s a strange blend like no other version, with dates and details. Perhaps one of the biblical stories that moved C.S. Lewis to say that “nothing else in all literature was just like this. Myths were like it in one way. Histories were like it in another. But nothing was simply like it.”

Let’s look at just a couple of the larger-than-life elements that will persist through generations…

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Mercy’s Kiss

ark

If we needed proof that a Curse has truly fallen upon ourselves and the land, we need only look to Genesis 5 through 7 to see all the ugly and mounting repercussions.

Adam’s curse is a land that yields thorns alongside its fruit.

Cain’s curse is a land that yields nothing.

Did we try to break the curse? It’s difficult to say. Those curious verses at the start of Genesis 6, referencing the Nephilim – the “heroes of old” – perhaps there was some hope on the part of mankind that brute strength could overcome the desolation. Unyielding land? Breed stronger men. Difficulty in childbirth? Mortality? Perhaps a new race will provide the answer.

Regardless, when God looks over the cursed land, waiting for his creation to turn to True Love for the answer, He finds instead that there is only evil, all the time.

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Wait for it…

fruit

Ah, Genesis 3. If ever there was a chapter in the Bible that whispered to all our fairy-tale longings for The One True Story, it is this one.

While still unfallen, the first man and woman desire wisdom, to peer into the unknown and understand mystery, and in their desire they over-reach and we are all cursed.

It strikes me today that the “forbidden fruit” was not some sensual pleasure, as that term has come to be understood. The forbidden fruit was knowledge, unlawfully gained. (I say unlawfully, because they desired wisdom, and James tells us that God gives it liberally – it doesn’t have to be stolen.)

So they reach and they eat, hoping for a greater understanding. And what is the very first thing they understand with their newly-opened eyes? That they are naked. Utterly, terribly vulnerable.

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Living the Day Backwards…

I’ve just started the Essential 100 Bible Reading Plan this week, and already Genesis 1 has my wheels turning!

Something has always confused me about this creation chapter and the subsequent Jewish practice – the way the Day is considered as beginning at sunset.  It seems so backwards, doesn’t it?  We’re completely ingrained with morning as the start of the day.  How did they think of it in reverse? When the sun came up, how could it feel like the end of the day?

I still don’t have the answer to that question, but something flashed across my thoughts this morning as I read Genesis 1…

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God in the Dock

clouds2

I’m continuing to dig into C.S. Lewis’s fascination with and reconciliation between Christianity and paganism, as it informs my writing and my heart. If you missed the first post in this series, you can find it here: Myth Made Fact

Lewis detailed his spiritual struggle in his autobiography, but one of his classic later writings, God in the Dock, is a series of essays intended as a defense of Christianity. (The “dock” is a British term for the place in a courtroom where the accused sits during trial.) One of my favorite of these essays is entitled “Myth Became Fact.”

Lewis had an atheist friend who asked why he did not “cut the cord” with all the elements that Christianity had in common with mythology, telling Lewis that his faith would be easier, less embarrassing, perhaps, if he could rid himself of the outdated trappings.

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Myth Made Fact

Parthenon, Athens

I’m delving into a new category of blog posts today, one I’ve been eager to begin for quite awhile, that of “myth made fact.” It’s a topic near to my heart, as I seek to create my own stories that reflect The One True Story, yet are set in time periods when the population had other stories, other myths, to explain their place in the cosmos.

The phrase comes from a favorite and oft-quoted essay by C.S. Lewis, “Myth Became Fact” and from his spiritual memoir/autobiography, Surprised by Joy. Lewis was a master of the classics and of myth, and when he came to Christ later in life, part of his conversion entailed reconciling all he knew of mythology with the biblical narrative.

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© Copyright Tracy L. Higley