This is the first of what I hope will be a long series, simply journaling through the Bible stories that I want my children to know. As I share these stories with my children, I thought I might as well share them with everyone.
It should be clear by now that I have a deep love for the Bible. As I share my thoughts on the creation story, I feel I should explain that I don’t read the Bible as a fact book or a rule book. I do my best to take the message of the Bible as a whole and balance everything I read with the declaration by Jesus that the most important commandments are to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves. I also read widely and expect the Bible to hold up in light of what I have learned through history and science about the universe. If I read something in the Bible that doesn’t make sense, I don’t disregard it, I just say to myself, “Maybe I need to consider this text in a new light.” I begin to think of the text as a riddle—it must be true in some way other than the obvious. I think the words “In the beginning, God created” is the best beginning to any book ever! I love knowing that God is creative and that we are created in the image of God be creative, too. This knowledge gives me confidence to color and paint and doodle away on the pages of my Bible. What a fun and wonderful way to honor and love a creative God!
That being said, if people are encouraged to read the creation story as factual, they could very well say: “There’s no way the world was created in seven days or that God would make plants before God created the sun” and read no further, which would be a shame. So I would encourage everyone to read the story as true just not absolutely factual. Below are just a few beautiful truths that I see clearly spoken in the creation story:
- God created the heavens and the earth.
- God is present from the beginning, hovering over the face of the waters.
- In the creation story, God simply speaks creation into being. God’s Word is powerful force, shaping the world for good. (Our words our powerful, too, and shape our experience of life.)
- Every person is created in the image of God with the innate ability to create, to love, and to see the good.
- God has blessed humans and created the world to be a good place.
- We are charged with being good stewards of the earth.
- The creation story sets up a lovely rhythm for life, which is truly meant as gift to us.
- God loves us!
As I illustrated the verse, I pondered certain unresolved questions I have about the creation story. It has always really bothered me that the plants appear before the sun is in the sky. I asked my eight-year-old about this, and he suggested that God’s face is so bright it can grow plants, which is a reasonably good explanation! As a doodled, I found myself wondering (and this is a bear with me moment!) what if the creation story isn’t about what happened, but about God’s overall plan? What if the story is meant to be read as foretelling events?
- Day 1 : Paul tells us that Jesus Christ is the firstborn of all creation. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is introduced as the true light that gives light to the world. Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.” I began pondering the meaning of these things in relation to God’s first command “Let there be light.”
- Day 2: A separation of the heavens and the earth—Is this suggestive of the fall? The earth becomes separated from heaven.
- Day 3: For Christians, the third day rings with all kinds of significance. On the third day, Christ rose from the dead. In the creation story, the earth rises and comes to life with green vegetation. Maybe the plants on day three are symbolic of our new life in Christ.
- Day 4: It’s not just that the sun and the moon appear in the sky on the fourth day, but that they begin to be used to keep track of the years and the seasons. It’s curious that in the West, we count the years from the time of Christ.
- Day 5: Maybe the fish and the birds represent ways that the gospel message would be spread, by sea and by air.
- Day 6: When the Word of God reaches us, we begin to live more fully into the image of God.
- Day 7: Maybe God won’t really rest until we fully reflect what it means to be created in the image of God.
A couple other verses swirled around my head as I pondered this passage….
- For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. Psalm 90:4
- Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. Psalm 121:4.
Spending time illustrating this verse gave me time to ponder the passage in an entirely new way. While my mind is satisfied by the flow of my newest reading, my heart prefers to read the creation story as accomplished fact rather than aspirational, to know that the world is a good place created by God and that each and every one of us is created in the image of God with the ability to create, to love, and to see the good. There’s something ennobling about a much simpler reading: “As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be!” MAY IT BE SO!
Here’s what found its way into my margins. I borrowed the overall concept for this page from a post by Donna Zachry in the Facebook Group Journaling Bible Community. (I had to really hunt to find it again!) I’ve seen the first page of Genesis illustrated many ways, and this stood out in my memory for its ability to communicate so much about the creation story in a single image. (This was the scariest page to do ever! It should get easier, right?) For this page, I penciled the design first, put down two coats of gesso, and colored with Tombow markers.
If it’s helpful, I made a template for the bubble letters, which I’ll share below. I just print the template on card stock, cut out the letters, and traced them. (I plan on helping my son recreate a similar page in his Bible!).