Reed hut, make sure you attend to all my words!
This excerpt from the Atra-Hasis flood story makes me laugh. I mean, come on..the image of a god standing outside a hut and yelling at the wall is frankly ridiculous. Can’t you see the ancient tribes sitting around a campfire and laughing at the image a good storyteller could create with these words? To my modern ears the recitation of regular floods, circumvented by the rescuer god Enki, has a comedic element, good practice for anyone who tells stories or speaks in public regularly. People like a little humor with their sermons. All fire and brimstone all the time exhausts people, and exhausted believers create to radical new approaches like jazz services and Darkwood Brew.
Sometimes I feel the walls listen better than the people in my life, and it’s rather comforting to know that God/the gods felt the same way. We tend to think of God as eternal and unchanging, but the Flood story tells us differently. Indeed, the character of God changes throughout the Bible (for more insight into this see Robert Wright’s excellent book The Evolution of God). We see this clearly in the flood story. God grows disappointed with humanity’s evil ways. God decides to erase humanity from the earth, except for Noah. God sends the flood. Noah survives. Hurrah!
Noah sins again.
Rather than finishing what God started and smiting Noah, God changes God’s mind.
I find that really, really powerful because while the past few sermons on Original Grace have gone a long way to easing my fears, I find God really intimidating. I mean…we’re trying to discern what God wants us to do with our lives, how we most fully live into ourselves. A softer way to put this is that we’re co-creating with God, but even that’s intimidating. I’m me, a flawed, easily distracted, stone-deaf human being, prone to mistakes, stumbles, sinning, while God is GOD. It’s not exactly an equal partnership, and if you happen to be a Type A Virgo First-Born Girl Perfectionist Control Freak, the likelihood of Messing Up Really Badly can be paralyzing.
But hey…lookee here! God makes mistakes, God-sized ones, and more profoundly, God learns from those mistakes, ultimately deciding God’s in this for the long haul with humanity. We’re flawed, and God now know exactly how flawed, but this is what God’s got. It’s like realizing your honeymoon is long, long over but yet you love the flawed person you’ve discovered sharing your life, perhaps even more deeply and profoundly than the idealistic vision you married.
In the end, God’s thought process in the flood story doesn’t make God more human, but it does make being human seem a little more God-like. We create. We mess up. We learn. We keep moving into love and grace and peace. So God sends prophets and teachers and messiahs, and works with us to do what we can together. So let the rain fall down…forever and ever, world without end, amen.