This past Monday, I got to attend the Wallace Chappell Lecture at Perkins School of Theology. It featured Rev. Jeff Kirby of Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City talking about “Evangelizing Men in a Culture of Noncommitment” and Rev. Dr. Elaine Heath talking about “Evangelism in a Culture of Violence Against Women.”
Now, some of you may have stopped reading right there. Just in those two sentences, there are many words that make us shudder to a stop – violence, evangelism…
But in listening to Dr. Heath, who I had for my one and only evangelism class when I attended Perkins, she brought up a point that I had forgotten in the busyness of my everyday life. In her reading of Genesis 3, she lifts up that perhaps it is not willfulness and pride that lead to the Fall in the garden, but a childish exuberance, inexperience, and immaturity. After all, how can a child know what “to die” means if they’ve never experienced it?
So it is, through the agency of the serpent, that they are tempted and wounded. They want to be like God – what child doesn’t want to be like their parent – but they first thing the come to “know” is shame. The good gift of their bodies and their relationship with God becomes tainted with guilt.
Dr. Heath used this scripture passage along with her readings of St. Julian of Norwich to talk about our original state to be one of woundedness that inevitably leads to actual sins. We enter the world unknowing, with basic, primal needs for love and sustenance. We learn from the faces we encounter every day, whether they smile and coo or grimace and snarl.
And at some point, by some word or deed or something left undone, we are wounded.
Having just had a child, I know this will happen, may already have happened, and it makes me so indescribably sad. And yet I know it happened to me, has happened to everyone I love, and continues in circles, ever-spreading outward as subtle as an epidemic and terrible as a tornado.
Sin is the sharpest scourge that any chosen soul may be smitten with: which scourge thoroughly beateth man and woman, and maketh him hateful in his own sight, so far forth that afterwhile he thinketh himself he is not worthy but as to sink in hell,—till [that time] when contrition taketh him by touching of the Holy Ghost, and turneth the bitterness into hopes of God’s mercy. And then He beginneth his wounds to heal, and the soul to quicken…Sin, which I have always described as a turning away from God, leads to the wounding of self and others. But the hope we have is that our God in Christ endured these same wounds and pours out grace. So, my prayer this day and every day, is that I may not wound others. God, help us find ways to turn our woundedness into avenues for grace.
– Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, Chapter XXXIX