When we read the story of Cain and Abel, most of us stick our self-righteous noses in the air and get downright judgmental. Most of us know the story told in Genesis — of Cain killing his brother Abel in a fit of jealous rage. “I wouldn’t kill my brother — what a horrible thing”, we quickly conclude, as if we are above any sort of violence and most certainly above killing.
But Ecclesiastes 3 teaches us that there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the sun: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, and a time to heal, as well as a time to kill. One metaphysical interpretation is that Cain and Abel are two parts of a whole, or two aspects of our own consciousness. There are times when killing can take the form of releasing the negative energy from our own lives, times when we should release the old in order to give way to the new. The people, situations and circumstances that we experience change. When they do, there is no reason to hang on to them. We have to honor that regenerative part of life that uproots and restructures just in order to bless us with something new.
In 1st Corinthians 15:31, Paul said “I die daily” (NKJV), teaching us that the need to change, to deconstruct, to reinvent, to tear the feathers from our own wings and allow some aspect of us to be destroyed is tantamount to the resurrection that we need to move forward. I feel as if I have been growing through this season of shedding the old, so that I can make way for the new. Just like the beautiful trees whose leaves reflect the rays of the sun, and then fall when their branches dance in the wind, we too shake away that which no longer serves us. We sometimes need to strip down to our bare essentials so that we can feel the ease of simplicity in everything that we do. For me, that may mean doing nothing, moving slowly, watching carefully, listening deeply, being quietly, waiting patiently, releasing gracefully. It’s not a time of mourning either; it’s a time of allowing every aspect of who we are to change.
Walking through Brooklyn alone, I encounter the sun-kissed golden of tulip trees, the vibrant crimson of red maples and the bold orange of sugar maples — just to name a few. I am by no means a tree expert and am more content to lose myself in the soul stirring magic of Rachelle Ferrell singing Autumn Leaves than I am likely to take the Crape-Myrtle Walk at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Neither experience, however, ceases to amaze me. There is something so deeply Detroit in my heart that it opens up to the natural vibrations of street rhythms just as quickly as it gives way to the sweet harvest of apple orchards, the liberating sounds of Geri Allen’s At This Time or the cold winds doing a last dance with everything that shakes before winter comes. The sacred is always here, and we are always in its midst.
In Genesis, God told Cain “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” And later, in the Sixth Commandment, Moses taught, “you shall not kill.” All of these passages mean that we must master our tendency to release and destroy with our need to create and demonstrate. Ultimately, it’s not what we harvest that matters but what we’ve learned through our sowing, pruning, weeding, and reaping. If we do the necessary cleaning, we can release the stuff that we don’t need and open a better space to honor whatever remains. We can look at ourselves with new eyes and a brand new possibility of salvation, not based on who we once were, but who we are.
I’m not raising Cain anymore, but I can see the divine in this season of release. I’m not worried ’bout the sin crouching at my door either. I’ve learned to step — albeit politely — right over it. When autumn leaves begin to fall… I can heal from my whatever plagues me. I can paint with new colors. I can see with new vision. I can be amazingly quiet, and listen to the sound of life giving way to me. I can exhale long prayers and inhale the solitude of peace.
Even if my leaves blow and leave me naked in the wind; my roots are strong and keep me sturdy — cleansed from my old sins and directed in the purpose of God.
Reverend Cecilia Loving
Pastor, SPIRITMUV (Services are every Sunday at 2:30 PM at the Unity Center of NYC, 213 West 58th Street, right off B’way near Columbus Circle)
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