I am reading a book by Karen Armstrong, The Lost Art of Scripture. I kind of resent her commenting that the ancient Jews “weren’t very introspective” but she quoted a passage from Jeremiah that so perfectly reflects my own feelings about God that I had to write about it. This is though I always imagined that Jeremiah was my least favorite book of the Bible. So here is her version of the passage:
I used to say, “I will not think about Him,
I will not speak His name anymore.
Then there seemed to be a fire burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones.
The effort to restrain it wearied me,
I could not bear it.
I feel like in my life there is a History of how I knew God. When I was little as a Christian, I believed God was Love, but also that God was Omnipresent. Everywhere a person went, and those places where human beings could not go, God was. Then I had some unhappy experiences regarding the Christian religion, and I was angry with God. I was an atheist in the 6th and 7th Grade. I felt despair. In the 8th Grade I “converted” back… yet it could not be made to work. At 19 I lost faith again, and again I felt despair. Then I found Spinoza’s God, and with it health, but health was only partially enough. When I found Judaism, I found my Truth. I felt like a martyr for converting to Judaism put it, “I feel I was looking for pebbles and found pearls.”
Perhaps it is not surprising that I write so much about faith… The Bible According to Eve (the first part of which is for sale at Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com) is a book about faith’s constant need for renewal. Maybe it doesn’t seem like that to the reader. Yet I believe sometimes if you have asked the same question a hundred times to get the same bland answer, the search becomes the quest for a new question. All my life since high school I wondered, “How does a person prove God exists?” and now I asked, “Can God be a feminist? Can God move the heart of women? Is it possible for the Bible, a book largely written by men (I hold Esther and Ruth may have been written by women), could be understood as being for women if women could rewrite and interpret. And being female, couldn’t I do so? We don’t know that the writers of the Bible could not have included ordinary Israelites, perhaps all I need to have the sanction to write The Bible According to Eve is to be a woman.
I long to someday write follow up books for other women in other religions. I do not know if that is allowed, but I hope it: The Testament of Mary and Khadijah and Aisha’s Quran are the first imagined. Yet I don’t know if I ever shall… I have so many projects on my “shelf.” One book that inspires me is a book I shall read for a class I am going to teach The Apocalypse of Abraham. Why? Because it is a extra deuteronic book which is about Biblical themes but did not “make the cut” into the canon. I hold that whoever wrote it did not commit any blasphemy, but in fact did holy work, whether it is more than edifying (as opposed to scriptural) or not. Well, if scholars have piles of books like The Books of Maccabees (included in the Catholic Bible but not the Hebrew or Protestant); The Book of Yasher (referred to in the Bible but unable to make the cut); and The Apocalypse of Abraham; then why can’t ordinary people today write about their issues regarding scripture in post-scriptural form, whether poetry or prose?
To quote Miriam and Aaron protesting what they saw as Moses’ highhandedness regarding how the Law was given and applied, “Does God speak only through Moses?” To be sure they were punished in the Bible–poor Miriam received leprosy. Yet if Abraham could argue on behalf of Sodom; if Moses could argue on behalf of the Jewish people when God was ready to kill them because of the Golden Calf; if David could argue with God on behalf of Uzzah, the man killed trying to save the Ark of the Covenant; then surely the issue of womankind deserves to taken up.
Especially because all through my childhood I craved a kind of answer from God to my prayers.