Our Awakening

Years ago while serving as a Sunday School teacher (...instructing twelve and thirteen year-olds), I would open the school class-year with a 'broadbrush' introduction to the Bible — a view from "the 100 miles above" level. After a short morning devotion, I'd begin the class lesson with a discussion on the 'Bible story' as a divine drama — something, I believed, pre-teen students could relate to, and comprehend ... if not with complete understanding then, at least, with the appreciation that the Bible presents a unity of thought and purpose     [ ....as opposed to a collection of interesting, independent short stories].


The theme of the drama is the Acts of God — past, present and future. It begins with a prologue; then come three acts, followed by an epilogue.  The prologue, which is contained in the first eleven chapters of Genesis [the word Genesis means "beginning"], sets the stage for the whole drama.  Act I is the rest of the Old Testament.  Act II is the Gospels.  Act III is the rest of the New Testament.  The epilogue is the book of Revelation .... Briefly, the prologue paints the picture  of the world as God meant it to be, and then shows us the appalling mess that we have made of it.  The three acts tell the story of what God has done, and is still doing, to enable us to get out of the mess.  The epilogue paints the picture of the end product, when men [women] and things become what God intended them to be."1


In our representation of a 'divine drama', the theater, or acting stage, is the planet that we live on, the chief character is God, and the supporting cast — the 'B' players — are human beings: God's premiere creation.  Unlike the Broadway production, however, this particular drama is "not a spectacle for us to sit back and enjoy or criticise ... for we are all taking part in the drama ourselves."2  Our Biblical drama is our life story — an ongoing, real-life 'stage play' about relationship, and companionship:  people and God.

As the curtain of the Bible rises, the drama opens with the Book of Genesis ....we are introduced to a series of illustrations that reveal a personal, intimate connection between God and humanity. In a repeatable pattern, or tapestry, of relationship, discovery, misstep, and healing — the Book of Genesis "begins the story of God's intervention to save us from the consequences of our own pride and folly."3  It is from this difficult beginning — which spans the distance of history — that people are set on a path to create, and cultivate, an immense, global civilization .... to birth a family of diverse, thriving societies.  People with both similarities and differences, but with one common origin: our Creator.

At this point in the classroom 'presentation', I still hold the attention of at least half the class. But, the next step — a line-by-line reading of Gensis chapters 1 to 3 — often separates the disinterested from the curious, and the "religious kids" from the confused (or sometimes, skeptical). At least every couple of years (usually), one curious and motivated student will remind me that the "events" in the first chapter of Genesis are different from the "events" in the second chapter ... even though both parts are suppose to collaborae and tell the same related story. If I was lucky ....the class was approaching the end of the morning teaching period and the discussion came to a close before the question was resolved; if I was 'less lucky', I would resort to an explanation that chapter 1 is a poetic description of creation (as told by one author), whereas chapter 2 (told by a different author) builds and expands upon the initial 'outline drawing' by filling in some of the details — specifically, the creation of human beings [...Adam and Eve and their life together]. I maintained this traditional view for a long, long time — until I discovered a book written by Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

In The Lonely Man of Faith, Soloveitchik — a Jewish scholar and rabbi — presents the argument that these two picture of creation — two apparent, conflicting accounts of the creation of Adam — reveal a duality in our human condition: the contradictory nature in ourselves as human beings. Soloveitchik informs us that these two Biblical narratives   [Gen. 1 and 2] "deal with two Adams, two men, two fathers of mankind, two types, two representatives of humanity, and it is no wonder that they are not identical."4


Who are these two Adams, signifying two opposing aspects of the human personality? The first Adam seeks to 'fill the earth and subdue it' (Gen. 1:28); that is, to conquer, to create, to dominate, to control. He seeks 'majesty' and 'dignity.' The goal is to 'harness and dominate the elemental forces and to put them at his disposal.' He seeks to vanquish disease, conquer space, forge political structures, create things of beauty, and legislate norms. Adam the First's endeavors are legitimate, indeed mandated; for God wills that he create and that he master his environment. Adam's creativity manifests the 'image of God' within him."5


Soloveitchik explains that "Adam the first is overwhelmed by one quest, namely, to harness and dominate the elemental natural forces and to put them at his disposal .... [he] is interested in just a single aspect of reality and asks one question only — 'How does the cosmos function?' He is not fascinated by the question, 'Why does the cosmos function at all?' nor is he interested in the question, 'What is its essence?' He is only curious to know how it works."6

Adam the second, on the otherhand, pursues an alternate interest — "his inquiry is of a metaphysical [spiritual] nature and a threefold one. He wants to know: 'Why is it?' 'What is it?' 'Who is it?' (1) He wonders: 'Why did the world in its totality come into existence? Why is man confronted by this stupendous and indifferent order of things and events?' (2) He asks: 'What is the purpose of all this? What is the message that is embedded in organic and inorganic matter, and what does the great challenge reaching me from beyond the fringes of the universe as well as from the depths of my tormented soul mean?' (3) Adam the second keeps on wondering: 'Who is He who trails me steadily, uninvited and unwanted, like an everlasting shadow, and vanishes into the recesses of transcendence the very instance I turn around to confront this numinous, awesome, and mysterious 'He' '? ... [the second Adam] does not create a world of his own. Instead, he wants to understand the living, 'given' world into which he has been cast."7


While Adam the first is dynamic and creative, transforming sensory data into thought constructs, Adam the second is receptive and beholds the world in its original dimensions. He looks for the image of God not in the mathematical formula or the natural relational law but in every beam of light, in every bud and blossom, in the morning breeze and the stillness of a starlit evening.... Adam the second explores not the scientific abstract universe but the irresistibly fascinating qualitative world where he established an intimate relation with God."8

 * * * * *

In the pace of our daily lives — often a hectic, franctic schedule of 'do this', 'go there', 'buy that' — we can quickly forget our 'metaphysical role' in the drama of life.  In the rush, and panic, to take care of our daily business and overcome demanding chores, we unconsciously (or consciously) decide that ... rather than participating as one of the leading characters in our divine drama, we prefer, instead, to occupy the back row of the stage .....watching, and enjoying, the "theatrics" performed in front of us ....and all around us.  In a word, we're often more comfortable seeing ourselves as a passive, disengaged version of Adam the First: a man [or woman] who desires "to identify himself with the total human personality, declaring his creative [productive] talents as ultimate, ignoring completely Adam the second and his preoccupation with the unique and strange transcendental experience."9

In our choosing, however, to not engage the companionship of God, we are selecting (often intentionally) a life-path that obscures, and temporarily erases, 'our divine connection' with the Caring, the Compassionate One  — a connection that remains continuously open and available, but only if want to participate in 'this cosmic relationship'.  Simply put: in our effort to play, and pursue, Adam the First, we are deciding to suppress the reality that our lives encompass more that just a physical, temporal existence.  And so for the time being, our intimate relation with God is put on hold.

For Christians, the teachings of Jesus speak to the heart of the dilemma of the two Adams. In his life and message, Jesus — the Servant — proclaims, time and again, that our path — our purpose — is to discover what he calls "the kingdom of God" or "the kingdom of heaven."

He spoke of it more often than of anything else, as if he wanted us to share a dream or a vision he had. He always spoke of the kingdom in vivid images or stories, and these stories — called parables — were always grounded in the ordinary everyday matters of life. ... We can see a pattern in all these images and stories about the kingdom of God. All of them challenge the assumptions that we take for granted. The more examples of the kingdom we read, the more we are surprised. What we think is primary turns out to be secondary with God. What we think shows strength is actually exhibiting weakness. What we think admirable appears as foolishness by the standards of God. What we think of as first, perhaps in importance or value, turns out to be last in God's eyes."10

As Herbert O'Driscoll explains in God With Us, "the driving force of Jesus' ministry was the vision that he called the kingdom of heaven."11

Most frequently Jesus' images of the kingdom compare it to something that we feel to be missing from our lives, and that we are drawn to search for. Finding it, we are overjoyed, and we celebrate with others. What has been lost could be a coin valued for sentimental reasons, a sheep separated from the flock, even a child who has left home. ... All of these images and stories have something in common —they challenge our usual way of seeing and evaluating what we assume is reality. Jesus is offering us a new way of understanding all human experience. In this new way we realize, with a shock, that our values and standards are radically challenged and changed. What we assume is richness turns out to be poverty; strength turns out to be weakness; and wisdom turns out to be foolishness. True riches, true strength, and true wisdom are quite other. The kingdom is a vision of a world where God reigns."12


Although Judiasm and Islam may choose different words (or illustrations) from 'kingdom of God' or 'kingdom of heaven', they share a similar vision of life — our life .....lived, today, on a planet we call 'Earth': a place where God reigns as our Friend and Companion, our Healer and Comforter, our Caregiver and Provider.  Allah - God - Elohimsource of all life — reaches, continuously, to embrace his family — a broken humanity — with a message of faith, hope and love. "These are the qualities in our lives that bring us into the presence of God. It is faith that ultimately brings us through darkness and doubt to knowledge and understanding. It is hope that sustains us through hard trials. It is love that, as we say, makes the world go round. To pause in the middle of our busy lives, to see through our preoccupations and accomplishments, and to reconnect with faith, hope and love — in this way we meet the deep reality that lies at the heart of our own being, the reality that has the power to transform our lives and the lives of those around us."13

Joseph Soloveitchik concludes his book (The Lonely Man of Faith) with a short chapter on Elisha [ref. 1 Kings, 19:19-21].  As a man of prosperity and property, Elisha's "objective was economic success, his aspiration — material wealth."14  He easily could fill the pattern of modern humanity: men and women who see their destiny as climbing the ladder of success — building for themselves lives of comfort, security, and self-importance. And then one day, "while he [Elisha] was engaged in the most ordinary, everyday activity, in tilling the soil, he encountered God and felt the transforming touch of God's hand.... Within seconds, the old Elisha disappeared and a new Elisha emerged....No more did the 'farmer' care for the oxen, the means of making the soil yield its abundance, which were so precious to him a while ago...He bade farewell to father and mother and departed from their home for good. Like his master, he became homeless. Like his ancestor Jacob he became a 'straying Aramean' who took defeat and humiliation with charity and gratitude....He was God's messenger."15

 Many a time he [Elisha] felt disenchanted and frustrated because his words were scornfully rejected. However, Elisha never despaired or resigned. Despair and resignation were unknown to the man of the covenant who found triumph in defeat, hope in failure, and who could not conceal God's Word that was, to paraphrase Jeremiah, deeply implanted in his bones and burning in his heart like an all-consuming fire."16

* * * * *

God calls each one of us to journey with The Divine as men and women who "possess unrealized resources, hidden in the recesses of our life and personality until they are forced into consciousness by our need. And when we seek these inner resources, we can encounter the miracle of ... [the Lord] in our own lives."17 God invites us to experience His kingdom in our "today reality" ....in our individual, all-too-human lives — lives that, at times, will be filled with struggle, and sorrow, and disappointment, and failure.  But also lives that can [and will] show "triumph in defeat, hope in failure."

Ours' is forever a drama of passion and "richness in spirit" — of lives lived to the fullest under an umbrella of LOVE that shields us from despair and darkness.  Our "awakening" is our human choice for a deeper Reality.  We can decide (if we so choose) to reshape our drama such that our lives are transformed and the world is reshaped — reconfigured as a planet of compassion and as a community of companions.  Companions of God and companions of one another.  A new kingdom.  A heaven on earth.  A drama that proclaims 'intimacy with God' ... for all people.


  1. Neil, William.  Harper's Bible Commentary.  New York: Harper & Row, 1962.
  2. ibid.
  3. ibid.
  4. Soloveitchik, Joseph B.  The Lonely Man of Faith.  New York: Doubleday, 1965.
  5. ibid.
  6. ibid.
  7. ibid.
  8. ibid.
  9. ibid.
  10. O'Driscoll, Herbert.  God With Us.  Toronto: Path Books, 2002.
  11. ibid.
  12. ibid.
  13. ibid.
  14. Soloveitchik, Joseph B.  The Lonely Man of Faith.  New York: Doubleday, 1965. 
  15. ibid.
  16. ibid.
  17. O'Driscoll, Herbert.  God With Us.  Toronto: Path Books, 2002.