"God Saw" A reflection by Julia Baker BCM Intern and Abundant Table Intern
I think about the word good a lot. In my 22 years of life, I’ve struggled deeply with perfectionist tendencies in different areas of life. It has caused me to be gripped with the fear filled cycling voices of “you’re not good enough Julia.” I’ve had to do pretty constant work to lessen that fear-based living, to unburden, to remind myself I am loved simply because I am.
Last week us Abundant Table-ers gathered over bowls of soup, cider and eggnog next to a crackling fire at Ched and Elaine’s lovely home to study the book Scripture, Culture and Agriculture by Ellen Davis. The chapter we spent the evening on looked at Genesis 1 examining it specifically as the poem it is.
“And God saw all that she had made, and here. It was very good!” (Gen. 1:31)
God saw. That word is not the one that is typically given focus. We tend to declare, “God said, God declared it was good.” Davis points to something huge here: “The goodness of the world is presented not as a simple fact, nor even as an authoritative pronouncement, but as divine perception.” (46) A perception that is especially significant because there are few times in the Bible that this view from God’s eyes is given. God sees nature as inherently good. (side note: Ched’s translation of the Hebrew word ‘good’ was, loosely, “juicy, exotic, awesome, that rocks, that cooks my noodle”)
As our group unpacked the profundity of this verse we spoke to the reality that, as a society, we don’t present a narrative of nature being inherently good. The bedrock of the modern relationship with nature says that nature is not enough, that we have to alter it. Our definition of civilization is autonomy from nature.
As I take bike rides along Hueneme Road, where our farm is, this attitude is evident. Humans have covered the fields with plastic, and then, in protective suits, looking like aliens they spray the fields to control nature by adding or subtracting with pesticides and antibiotics to “fix” what we had declared as “not good.” Such control that shouldn’t be needed, but the damage we’ve imparted on the earth now requires it. These controlling practices we now deem as necessary.
I see ways that in my own life I have created control frameworks of necessary. Frameworks established from a belief that I represent damaged goods, flawed unless I work actively to control or fix myself. I have tried to control my body with an eating disorder that has been my reality for the last 5 years (3 years now in a journey of recovery). The eating disorder has given me guidelines to live under, guidelines it says are necessary for my happiness in the world.
The Abundant Table tries in our own ways to unwork these patterns, to let go of control, we have our organic 5 acre oasis here on the Oxnard plain. Ched and Elaine’s yard is a homesteading dream in the middle of an Oak View neighborhood. As for myself, working on the farm and celebrating the joys of food is actively healing the ways anorexia has been a distorting burden in my life. I believe in these efforts, and our book study conversations exhorted me anew to believe in them, act them out and our talk added a layer.
God saw. How can we as a society let go of the old paradigm relationship to nature and see with new eyes? Get out of our heads when we relate to nature? How can we get out of what we claim is the way things must be done next to the narrative we have written? It is time to rewrite our collective script. We need new eyes that don’t look at nature solely through a mental lens, but that can look at nature and see the value in the earth’s inherent, beautiful goodness through and beneath the ways humans have altered it.
Davis quotes philosopher Erazim Kohak, “The painful flaws in our conception of value…call less for a new conception of the good than for a new way of seeing the good.” (46)
Woven into this I think back to my own ways of seeing myself, the internal narrative that I work to rewrite. How can I alter the script I have been acting on? The self-constructed system of control I tell myself I must live out of in order to be seen as good? This reading of Genesis has added fuel as I do the work to re-write my script; now with the reminder that God saw Julia and said I am very good, “juicy, exotic, awesome, that rocks, that cooks my noodle” the way I naturally, beautifully am.