Lifeblood: A Uniquely Woman’s Perspective


For your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.
“Whoever sheds human blood,
    by humans shall their
blood be shed;
for in the image of God
   has God made mankind.”

-Genesis 9:5-6

I think one of the most misunderstood aspects of the Old Testament is the Sacrificial System that Jewish Law demands. Did you commit a sin against God or against your fellow man? That’s okay! If you kill a goat on the altar and you can walk away clean! (This is a gross oversimplification, but the core idea is correct.

The Sacrifical System didn’t just come straight out of the heavens on a written scroll. It was perfected and carefully modified over generations. Before the days of buying unblemished goats and doves in the temple courts (the days of Jesus), you would have to procure your own goat or dove (Temple of Solomon).

But in the days of the tabernacle – a time where the temple of the Lord was mobile, and traveled with the people – the goat or dove was your own. You helped birth it, you helped feed it. You were there when it broke it’s leg and you fixed it up. You fed it grain or seed everyday. And it would be you – not the priest, who would hold down the animals head as a blade was struck across it’s neck for actions you did against God. And there would surely be tears in your eyes as restitution was made.

But how did we get there? Why would we ever think that a goat’s blood could stand in for our own? My answer will be a different one – a uniquely female take. This culture of “blood for blood” doesn’t start with theology, or even the patriarchy. Instead, it starts in a very relatable way. Becasue for 50% of the population, it starts in a unique way – during puberty, when a girl sheds her first blood.

Imagine a world without molecules; a world without atoms and neutrons. Imagine a world where microbiology does not exist. There are no cells in this world; instead, the smallest unit of life is a gnat. There’s no viral or bacterial infection. There is simply life or death.

There’s no ovary or sperm in this world. There is no zygote in the womb, nor is there a fetus. There is no such thing as endometrium lining. Things in this world aren’t contained in the sterile environment of scientific progress and dictionary definitions. There is simply life or death.

And there one thing that separates life from death. Lifeblood.

Everyone month, much like the waxing and waning moon, a woman waxes and wanes blood. This blood, the blood that could become life leaves her body. And this is not an ordinary blood that spills out of a wound. Instead, it’s a blood that cramps your abdomen as it sheds. It’s a blood that makes the woman tired, and emotional. It’s a blood that makes her breasts hurt, her appetite change. This type of blood leaves in a painful and emotional process that takes a few days to complete. There is no scientific terms to explain away this monthly phenomena. There is only blood. It’s messy. It’s uncomfortable. And for 50% of the population, it’s uniquely human.

The goats and sheep in the fields did not shed blood every month. The birds of the air and fish of the sea do not shed blood. Blood is not needed for your herds to grow, your seed to sprout, your chickens to flock. Wild dogs and cats do not need to bleed to create a life. But a human? A woman needs to bleed to harbor a life. Is it any wonder that a period marked the final transition from girl to woman? From single to married? Form child, to life-bearer? Becasue there is something uniquely human about blood. A human, who is made in the image and likeness of God, requires blood for life to come forth.

And suddenly, that red sticky liquid flowing in your body becomes lifeblood.

So yes, the women were sequestered off when they were on their period. No, they aren’t pariahs! No they aren’t dirty, fowl, second-class, or less-than-human! They are women who are letting this blood-that-could-have-been-life leave their body. It’s not endometrium lining, not to the ancient world. It’s a potential for the image and likeness of God that is leaving.

Why would you dishonor that lifeblood by mingling it in your tent, by sleeping with your husband as you shed? Instead the women would meet together in their sequestered space. They would share remedies, tell stories and pass on knowledge about all things related to lifeblood. A lifeblood that is given to humanity -made in the image and likeness of God.

And in this world where water is precious and scarce (only 4 inches a year in some places!) you wouldn’t wash off the lifeblood every day. No. You would wait until all the bleeding was complete, and then you would wash away the lifeblood and go back to the tent of your husband. The same applies to the sequestering of a woman after birth. Birth is messy and bloody and it will continue to be messy and bloody for quite some time. Lifeblood continues to bleed, fluids leak. This isn’t something to be mixed in with the comings and goings and every day. It’s a part of this life-blood process.

This is the understanding of lifeblood that allowed the our ancestors to sacrifice animals. For my sin, wrought in blood, can only be rectified by blood. But human blood is too precious, it’s in the image and likeness of God! But the blood of a goat, a sheep, or a ox – that could work. It’s a law that ultimately, requires God to become lifeblood in order to unify the broken world to himself.

Blood is human. Blood is messy. Yet it is human blood that harbors life, as long as God breathes his breath unto it. And men who have seen battle would know this. Its not the sword the kills you, but the amount the blood that sword causes you to loose. Guts bleed out on open fields, while lips turn blue. A wound sours and becomes putrid as veins change color until death – lifeblood corrupted.

So many cultures around the world drink the blood of the dead in order to commune with them because they understand a fundamental truth that we have seemed to forgotten so quickly.

That life is found in blood. From conception. To death.

Restoration: A Poem from the Land, Aaron, David, & God the Father

In the beginning there was God and there was me

Cyclones of chaos were my entire entity

Ever swirling, ever turbulent were my seas

But then I submitted to his divine authority

Who am I, you may wonder, what creature am I?

I am your voiceless sister, the land on which you live and die.

Gysers exploded, mud dried, stars filled the sky.

The world became His tabernacle – my lowest low – my highest high.

*

In the beginning there was God and there was me.

Then we were joined by an Adam, and an Eve.

Together we existed in complete harmony.

With you walking in my garden, eating all I could provide

Nothing was found lacking, and my waters never dried

But oh, how could you do it? Why did you want to live that lie?

Do not ask me to forgive you – you have forced my very rocks to cry.

*

In the beginning there was God and there was me.

But then God had to eradicate this Adam and this Eve

And I felt the fracture

These once-close traitors left me brown, let me bare

I am no longer lush, I am no longer fair.

They had two children, two clashing sons.

I never met them, but I tasted one.

I was powerless to reject the blood’s bitter tang,

I could not fight back, I don’t have fangs.

Why did you humans scar me? How could you abandon me so.

It was foreign, invasive – completely unknown

I had no defense mechanism against it.

I could not vomit it out

nor swallow it whole.

Instead it stewed into my inward parts.

My chaos, it seemed, has become reclaimed.

For chaos is now a human game.

Do you feel the shifting sands?

Can I no longer harbor you like the sister that I am?

Do you lament that God and I not longer walk hand-in-hand

. . . because of you
Continue reading Restoration: A Poem from the Land, Aaron, David, & God the Father

That Old Testament “God of Wrath”: Goats and Barley

I recently overheard  someone mention their personal struggle with the Old Testament’s image of the “Wrath-of-God” against the New Testament’s open armed Jesus. And my heart broke hearing this because our 21st century, western-world minds just don’t understand the ancient world. I have been convicted to defend this God of Wrath that we see. Here, in this post I am going to do something I was expressly told not to do in Seminary: defend Psalm 137. What Psalm is this? The Psalm that ends with these heart-wrenching words: “O daughter of Babylon . . .Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!”

If there is ever a passage of scripture that keeps people struggling with the wrath of God, it’s this one. Why would a follower of the Judeo-Christian God speak to actively killing babies! What type of God would support these words! Surely, this is the epitome of the Wrath-God we sometimes see in the Old Testament.

But I am going to defend the Psalmist – this broken-hearted Psalmist. And I’ll do it by inserting you into the Ancient world: somewhere around 3,000 BCE.

Continue reading That Old Testament “God of Wrath”: Goats and Barley

Babel Towers: A 3am Interpretation of Genesis 11

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and felt restless – spiritually restless? It’s not insomnia. It’s not anxiety or worry. It’s when you wake up at 3am and you don’t feel right – you don’t feel at peace. So you get up and go your special spot in the house in order to pray – and I mean really pray – Garden of Gethsemane style. It’s in those quiet (or not so quiet) 3am moments that we recognize the spiritual weight that has become heavy upon us. It’s in these moments that we see the towers of Babel pressing in on us.

Genesis 11 tells a story of how all the peoples of the earth were congregated in one city. The people came together in order to  build a tower that reaches into the heavens. They do this so that they won’t find themselves scattered across the world in dissension.

This is how the people of Genesis 11 had a right idea for the wrong reasons. They thought, “Let’s make a tower and a city so big and so grand, that we will reach into the heavens. Let’s not only claim this land as ours so there is no one left to fight us, but let’s build a tower that reaches Babel itself. And once we build it high enough – there we will rule both the heavens and the earth – and there will be no dissension.”

There is this word in Akkadian (the langua franca of the ancient world) called Babilim which means “gate of the gods”. And when you loose the plural “im” at the end, we are left with Babel: “Gate of God”. Yes – it’s an Akkadian translation – not a Hebrew one. But given the era in history this story comes out of, I am inclined to think it’s the best we got.

So the people of earth people built a tower to the very “gate of God”. And do you know what happens next in the story? God has to “come down” from heaven to even see this puny tower that the people have built. They haven’t even come near the “gate of God” – but they were so sure that they had. The people had settled into a large city only to became united in a false idea – a lie: that they could settle and become gods – as long as they built high enough.

This is the world of Abraham’s family: a world of Babel towers.

Continue reading Babel Towers: A 3am Interpretation of Genesis 11

Psalm 36: A Story of Three Brothers

Psalm 36: A Personal Translation
REBELLION utters, like a prophet, to the wickedness in the secret places of my heart. There is no fear of God in front of his eyes. For REBELLION flatters himself in his own eyes finding his CROOKEDNESS not hated. The words of his uttering are CROOKED and treachery. He does not act insightfully towards goodness. He plots CROOKEDNESS upon his bed and he stands upon a path that is not good. He does not reject evil.
Oh Lord! Your COVENENTAL SUBSTANCE is in the heavens! Your faithfulness extends into the clouds. Your righteousness is like the high places. Your judgments are like a great deep. Man and animal alike, the Lord saves from REBELLION.
What COVENENTAL SUBSTANCE, God! That sons of man, that we, take refuge in the shadow of your Law. We are saturated from the fat given in sacrifice in your house. And from a stream of Eden you allow us to drink. For with you is a spring of life. In your light, we will see light.
Your COVENENTAL SUBSTANCE pulls the ones who know toward you. And your righteousness pulls our hearts to standing heart. Do not let a foot of pride come to me. And do not let the hand of wickedness lead me to wander! There, the makers of Crookedness are fallen. They have been laid down and have not been able to stand.

_   _   _   _   _

I would love to introduce you to two obscure characters within the Old Testament. These abstract characters do not have names and you won’t see them pictured in a children’s Bible. However, they are present nonetheless. In fact, they are in almost every biblical narrative.  And much like the cartoons that display an angel on one shoulder with a devil on the other, so too do these entities exist; only they do not reside on our shoulders.  I will call our hero, Chesed (חסד). And the villain, I will call Pesha (פשע).

Now this villain, this Pesha, cannot fully be understood by himself because he is intimately linked with his two brothers. One younger, and one older. And this brotherhood is known as sin. The first brother is named Chata (חטא), but here, I will call him Offense. We encounter Offense all over the Old Testament. Offense is the most basic understanding of sin: this brother demonstrates that something is not right between God and man, or between man and man. And this disordered relationships is known as Offense. Offense was present when the Isrealites circled around a golden calf, and so, the Levitical Law was born to combat against it.

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Biblical Imagery: A Simple Antidote

I will always remember the first time I fell in love with the Bible. I don’t remember how young I was, maybe fifth or sixth grade. I was sitting in bed as my Dad tucked me in at night. Maybe I was asking a question about the Sunday School lesson that I heard that day. Or maybe I was confused over something that I read in the Bible. I don’t remember exactly what I asked, but I will always remember his strange response. He told me a story:

“Sarah,” he stated calmly, “Do you know that Yellowstone is a super volcano and when it erupts it will end America?”

I think my face must have crinkled, “Umm . . . I didn’t know that. That’s kind of scary.”

He smiled back at me, but kept going. “Imagine that Yellowstone Park erupted today and buried half the United States in lava. Imagine that the rest of the country perished due to starvation as ash covered the continent. Civilization would cease and it would be decades before plants could grow again. Imagine that after the destruction no one came back to the US for hundreds of years. In fact, imagine that our English language is lost, our culture forgotten, and our artifacts buried deep in the earth. Imagine that the internet was forgotten and our way of life passed out of existence.”

This was getting pretty heavy for my pre-teen self – but I kept listening.

Continue reading Biblical Imagery: A Simple Antidote

The Tree of Life and The Problem of Evil

“The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground . . . In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”      -Genesis 2:9

 

We live in a time and culture that questions God. We question why bad things happen to good people. We question why there is suffering in a world when there is a loving God. Essentially, we wonder why God allowed there to be a tree in the middle of a garden that we couldn’t eat from called, The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

I mean, really God? Why would you do that to us? It’s like saying “Don’t think of a pink elephant” and then instantly asking, “What are you thinking about?”

To which the only answer can be, “A pink elephant . . . obviously.” For there was no other option given. However, that is not the world that God created in the garden. For God created two trees in the middle of the garden. There was the infamous Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but more importantly, there was also the Tree of Life.

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The Story of Forty: The Lent You Haven’t Heard

Every year, I am constantly thrown off by Lent. We say that it lasts 40 days, but there are actually 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. So why do we say forty? I could go into this boring history: I could tell you how the lunar and solar calendar don’t get along, which resulted in an annual 46 day problem. I could tell  you that some traditions don’t count Holy Week as  being a part of Lent while others don’t count Sundays. But in the end, that conversation tells us very little about the theology behind Lent. So instead, I am going to tell you a different story. I am going to tell you about the Story of Forty.

The Story of Forty

When humanity had corrupted the earth, when they no longer recognized who they were created to be, it was time for God to demonstrate Who He was. So he unleashed the waters of Chaos, waters that He once barred in Creation. So once again, God let Chaos reign. So Chaos rained for Forty days.

For Forty days and Forty nights the world was submerged.  And a Biblical theme was born. Why Forty? Why not some other number? Is there a reason for this reoccurring number? Answer to that question is, “Yes”.  Numbers are used for more than counting in Hebrew literature. They typically represent an idea. So before we can understand Forty, we must first look at the two numbers that comprise it.
Continue reading The Story of Forty: The Lent You Haven’t Heard

Image of God: Dust of the Earth

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:26

  • “Then the LORD God formed the man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.” – Genesis 2:7-8

Sumer, 2800 BC:

The largest city in the Fertile Crescent is home to hundreds of people, thousands of animals, family houses, and a giant Temple that stretches to the sky. But at night the bloated city sleeps. Except on this night an odd group of people move throughout the tired walls as the midnight darkness descends over the land. In the pale moonlight the small band of men move their way towards the sacred garden within the city walls.

Among this group of people are a few temple priests, an idol-maker, and his apprentice son. In the hands of the elder craftsman is an earthen idol, a little man with small arms, strong legs, and painted eyes. The craftsman’s son holds another idol, a stone woman with large breasts, wide hips, and a jeweled necklace. The men are careful as they bare these precious vessels across the city. And the tools that were used to make them hang from sacks across the idol-makers’ backs.

The group slows as they approach the city’s sacred garden. Once they cross the threshold into the lush greenery, the craftsmen hold out the idols for the priests to take. Once the priests take hold of them, they start to sing the sacred chants. The craftsman’s son tries to follow the priests to the center of the garden but his father grabs him by the arm and shakes his head. They are not needed yet – they should not approach the sacred births.

The priests place the wooden images on the ground at the foot of an Cedar tree. More incantations are sung as the minutes pass slowly. It is here, in this scared garden that the priests wash out the eyes and the mouths of the wooden idols: for they are about to witness the god’s births into the city.

 

Although the gods exist transcendent, high and mighty, it is this ceremony that will allow the deities to be born into the city walls and installed into the holy temple. Once the washing of the idols is complete, a heaviness falls in the garden for the idols have awakened. The small band of men now have an audience.  The priests turn towards the two idol-makers and call them forward. Both father and son walk slowly towards the priests, wary of looking the living idols in the eye.  The gods now live within these humanoid vessels – watching the next moments take place.

The priests pour water onto the hands of the craftsmen responsible for the creation of the idols.  Just as the gods had come alive in their washing, so too the hands of the craftsman must be put to death. And as the water is poured over the idol-maker’s hands, another chant is lifted up to the solid images, ever-watching. These men must be forgiven of their guilt; for they are guilty of making the gods. Once their hands are washed clean and the memory of their shame is removed, the small band of men take the living idols and the tools that were used to make them out of the garden and up to the temple.

Once they make the climb to the top of the temple, the priests install the idols to the highest place of worship. Now, the gods are able to oversee everything that happens within the city walls. But the gods have not been appeased yet. The craftsman have not been fully forgiven. The priests sacrifice a sheep on the grand altar. Once dead, the animal is cut open and the tools that were used to create the the idols are put within the sheep’s body. Then, the heavy carcass is carried out of the city gates and placed in the river where all memory will be washed from the tools. It can never be acknowledged that humans and metal made these gods incarnate.

As the dawn sun begins to rise and the city awakens to a new day, the small band return to their homes clean, having witnessed the birth of the gods, and their own forgiveness. For on this night, man created the gods in their own images, in the images of humanity they were created.

Nearly a thousand miles away in an unknown land, a man named Abraham tells his own son a different story about the God that they serve. This story does not involve idols and tools. Instead, it involves the dust of the earth.

In Genesis we read about a God who wants to make man in His image. This God is not interested in being created in our own humanoid likeness. Instead, both male and female are created to take form after Him. Genesis 2 demonstrates how God creates a man, much like the idol-makers do, and then brings him into a sacred garden. But instead of incantations and ritualistic washing, God simply breathes life into the dust, and man is formed. Then, this man is placed in God’s sacred garden to live. Man is not taken to temple to be worshiped like the idols were but stays in the garden so he might worship God instead.

Much like the Ancient cities of biblical times, I often find myself believing that within my solid walls, tall buildings, and financial security, the world revolves around myself. My money, my skills, and my abilities, like the jewels and paint placed on the idol, are what adorns me. I find myself believing that these things give me worth; give me life.  I start to think that the world, including God, is defined by me. He waits on my schedule, my skill, and my talent.  Often, my actions demonstrate that I control Him, make Him, and move Him wherever I want Him to go.  I fit Him into my life thinking that I can wash my hands of Him and bury the proof of my crimes in a river.

But in Genesis, God does not ask me to be adorned with jewels and paint. Instead, I am adorned with dust. I read about a God who calls me to be something more than my money, my shedule, my skill, and my talent.  He calls me instead, to look like Him in my most humble and barest form: the dust.

I am not supposed to make my life into a temple. I am not called to rely on myself for His benefit (as if I could) but to depend on Him. I am the created one in His everlasting garden. I am the one who was been molded together. I am the one who received His breath of life. For I have been made in the image of God; I have been created out of the dust of the earth.

So why do I constantly disguise myself a godlike jewel when I can rest in His garden as the dust?