It’s been a while, but I have been reading the Bible consistently again. In fact, I plan to read the entire Bible, cover to cover! I’m following a six month plan I found by googling “Read the Bible in six months.” The irony of this is that I recently advised a friend not to do this, or at least not to try to read through the Bible chronologically. I believe I said something like, “You’re going to hate your life when you get to Numbers.” But here I am crossing off Genesis chapter after Genesis chapter, day after day. It’s day five, so I’m only to Chapter 32, which is a little over halfway. Genesis is long, y’all.
Meanwhile, at work, my daily goal is to try to get my twelve-year-olds to read both closely and critically, while still appreciating and enjoying the words printed on the page. I teach my students to read and make a notation when they find themselves asking, “Why is the character doing that?” or “Why is the character acting this way?” If I were implementing this annotation practice, my Bible would be full of notations. I try to stick to just underlining, but I confess that I couldn’t resist writing, “Why?” next to certain selections. Too often, I find myself thinking, “Hold up. Really? How did I miss this? This is in the Bible? DOES NO ONE SPEAK OF THIS???” And it’s only day five.
For example, I’ve always struggled with Lot’s wife—being turned into a pillar of salt for looking back at the city she was fleeing. I mean, who is able to choose a path and never look back? Even if you are looking back at a time that you know to be sorrowful, or sinful, or shameful, who doesn’t look back on what their lives once were? Also, after Lot’s wife (who wasn’t cool enough to have a name) gets turned into a pillar of salt, Lot’s own daughters sleep with him (their father) to preserve the bloodline. A wife would have probably been a better candidate for this position. Mind you, this is after he gladly offered up his virgin daughters to some eager young lads so they wouldn’t (gasp!) sleep with other men. Also, Lot hesitated to leave Sodom and Gomorrah too. In fact, the angels had to grab him to get him to leave. Lot’s wife only looked back when they were safe in Zoar, as her former home was destroyed by fire.
I know, I know. Parts of Genesis are considered myth by many modern-day believers of the Christian faith. At least some of this craziness is legend and parable. In reading Genesis, I just want to know when it stops being allegorical. Adam and Eve? Cain and Abel? Noah? Abraham?
I realize I am no Bible scholar, which is kind of the reason I’m doing this. Although I am an educator, I am afforded little time to educate myself on what I would prefer to study. You know, the bigger questions of life and human existence and purpose and faith. I’ve heard it said that we can’t “pick and choose” the parts of the Bible we want to believe in, or the parts that sound true to us because we like them.
Well, I’m choosing anyway. I like Hagar. The handmaiden, second-wife, concubine, or however your version puts it, who was banished by Abraham’s first wife even though God told Abraham to sleep with her so he could reproduce.
God does not see Hagar as less than.
“You are the God that sees me,” Hagar says, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
When we feel overlooked, under-appreciated, or ignored, isn’t it intoxicating to feel seen? Isn’t it easy to love someone who really knows you for who you are and still loves you anyway? This is the appeal of God—at least for me, a twenty-six-year-old skeptic who still wants to be seen.
Caroline Higgins (’11) lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she spends the vast majority of her time teaching English Language Arts. You may also find her at barre exercise classes or playing (and losing) at bar trivia. She continues to be inspired by the energy and diversity of New York City and the beauty of that certain slant of light.