These are the first three words of Scripture, and they burst with promise.
If Moses was indeed the author of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), perhaps he began here – in the beginning – as if to insist:
The story I’m about to tell you is headed somewhere. It has meaning and purpose. There is congruence to its parts.
In the beginning, at least as I read it, seems to say something inherent about the narrative architecture of God’s story. As a student of literature, I recognize in the beginning as a familiar point of departure: I head into the rising action. I anticipate conflict, then climax, and imagine myself making descent into the dénouement. Falling, falling, falling, I will fall into resolution.
This story is going to make sense to me. Because in the beginning begs to make sense of it. Begs me to consider that if there is architecture to this story, then surely there is an Architect.
That is the leap of faith we make in the first three words of the Scripture: in the beginning.
But let us not forget that faith is, as a New Testament writer later assured, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Faith sees and knows what is neither apparent nor intuitive.
In the beginning, God.
Genesis, for all the promise of its beginning, quickly unravels, all the narrative threads tangling and fraying. Not long into Genesis (exactly two chapters), and the good of the beginning is threatened. Faith is threatened. Where is the architect when the story seems to collapse in on itself?
Which is of course the question we all ask ourselves when life, like a willful child, heads toward the street.
Last week, in a single day, divorce and death are in my inbox. One friend’s marriage is imploding. Years and years, they’ve having been plodding together, holding with ever more difficulty to the promises they had long ago. Those promises, those threads of faithfulness, will not hold, it seems. And the solid things prove themselves provisional.
And death. She is there, too, in my inbox, and I remember with cold ache that young women get cancer and make haste to leave, families collapsing in the wake of their departure. The solid things prove themselves provisional.
In the beginning, God.
To believe in a purposeful, coherent architecture to the stories of our brokenness requires faith.
To believe in an Architect – with a will for good in the midst of pain – is and only ever will be apprehended by faith.
But I do believe, however naïve that will seem to make me. Because in the beginning, God is irresistible fruit.
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