How Genesis Keeps Me Awake At Night
Singer-songwriter Paul Poulton explains how he couldn't get the first book of the Bible out of his head - and how it all ended up in print
Writing a contemporary commentary on the first book of the Bible was not one my new year’s resolutions for 2014.
But as January got underway I found myself thinking about Genesis. I would wake up early with thoughts about how Genesis has related to each generation since it was written. I began to see a theme running through the book and how the pieces fit together. I would sometimes wake up energised while it was still dark and, taking my life in my hands, wake up my wife who was lying beside me and say, “Hey sweetie, I’ve had some more thoughts about Genesis, listen to this…”
As I read the chapters of Genesis and got to know the landscape and the characters well, I began to wonder why there is so much debate about the book, it seemed clear to me. But I pushed away the voice that told me I ought to put my thoughts down on paper. Yet the thoughts continued to go back and forth in my mind:
“There is such conflict of opinion about Genesis, some people think of it as a fairy tale, with talking snakes and magic fruit trees, they say there are two creation stories next to each other. Even Christians who believe the book sharply disagree about it.”
“Yes, exactly, so why should I get involved? I’m happy with my own thoughts about Genesis; the book makes sense to me. I’ll let the others come to their own conclusions.”
A couple of days after this mental wrestling match I once again awoke early in the morning with some more thoughts about the amazing book of Genesis. It was 3:00am actually, and the thoughts were impressed upon me with force. I once again began to feel the need to ‘write it all down’. So I prayed.
“Lord, someone has got to tell me to start writing this book, because I’m busy with my music, and my inclination to get on with the hard work of writing a book is weak. But if someone tells me to start writing about Genesis then I will. Amen."
My wife was fast asleep while I prayed so I woke her to tell her my latest inspirational thought about Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel which woke me up in the first place. My wife sleepily listened to my first sentence then interrupted and said, “Could you write it down please, and I’ll look at it later?”
So my journey began.
I carved out some time and began to write. I have written a book before, and also articles for magazines and web sites, but for this new book about Genesis the narrative came out so fast that the word count reached 80,000 in a short space of time, I was surprised at the speed I wrote and the inspiration with which I wrote. I sent the manuscript to a theological publisher who got straight back to me saying they would publish the book, which I called Genesis for Ordinary People.
I have no big desire to get into the debate about the first two or three of chapters of Genesis, but I can’t write a book about Genesis without including the first chapters. So I wrote about them; they make good sense to me. However, what drove me on more than anything else is the relationship that God wants to have with us humans. God spoke to men, walked with men and reached out to us; and the story begins, with aplomb and adventure, in Genesis. We sometimes forget how exciting it is to be with the God of heaven and earth.
As I wrote the book the peace of Eden’s garden settled upon me. I found myself walking down the street thinking things like “If the Lord God was walking right next to me along this street, what would I say to him?”
“Lord,” came the answer to my own question, “you have created such a wonderful world, this tree that we can see here, it’s remarkably beautiful in design. This ground that we are standing upon, it’s astonishing. All the hidden resources below the earth’s surface that we use to build and propel our cars along the street, you have provided them all. Lord, how wonderful is your name in all the earth. Thank you for reaching out to me and walking with me. You know Bob Dylan? Well, as Bob said, ‘What can I do for you?’”
Genesis for Ordinary People follows the intriguing thread that runs through the entire book of Genesis. I take a good look at the story's wonderful, and flawed, people and beings, inviting readers to gaze into the garden of Eden to witness the reality of what actually happened there. I follow the storyline of Genesis but often look back, adding a fresh perspective to Adam and Eve's enthralling lives. A fascinating picture emerges as the layers of Genesis accumulate.
Paul Poulton is a writer, speaker and singer-songwriter. He talks about life, human idiosyncrasies, his Christian faith and philosophy, sometimes seasoning his discourses with humour. Paul is a member of his local Baptist church in Staffordshire.