A few years ago, I regularly attended a yoga class that was usually filled with people. On one unusual Saturday, there were only a handful of us gathered, and we awaited the teacher’s arrival. When she came in, she said five frightening words:
“Oh good! You’re all advanced.”
I had only been practicing yoga for a few years. Didn’t a person need 20 or 30 years behind him/her to reach the title of “advanced”?
What followed was a blur. We were jumping, kicking legs in the air, leaping onto our hands (I refused), and twisting into strange shapes. Apparently, to be “advanced” in this yoga class was to practice difficult poses. The next morning in church, when the minister invited us to “stand as we were able,” in the order of worship, I was not able. From my seated stance, I prayed for the “beginners” to come back to yoga the next weekend.
Since I’ve been teaching yoga, the question people ask me most is some variation of, “Is it okay for beginners to come?” I find myself mostly answering, “Of course.” What I should be saying is, “I sure hope so — because I’m a beginner, too.”
No matter how many years have passed since I started practicing yoga, I realize that to lose the “basics” of the beginner’s class could cause me harm. In a beginner’s class, we learn how to breathe. We learn proper alignment of the most used poses. We learn how to connect the breath to our movement. Whether a class is described as advanced, intermediate or beginner, all of them require knowledge of the basics. The more obsessed we become with mastering more “difficult” poses, the more likely we are to take for granted the seemingly “easier” ones.
When I think about such beginnings, my theologian’s mind returns to the book of the same name: Genesis. The first two chapters of the first book of the first testament are familiar to many of us: the story of creation, the story of our formation. When we’re studying the Bible, how often do we connect the passage we’re reading to the very first story? When we read of Jesus scribbling in the dirt, surrounded by Pharisees and filled with compassion for an adulterous woman, do we recall that this is the same dirt from which we were all formed? When Isaiah dreams of a day when lion and lamb will dwell together, do we recall that it once was this way?
How different our time in the Word might be if we connected everything to the first story! We’ve heard the story of creation so often, and it’s been so greatly discussed, that it’s easy to lose the awe of our beginnings. We want to dig more deeply into “advanced” readings: learn the original Greek and Hebrew, study the context, interpret the meaning. Whether it’s a psalm, proverb, parable, prophecy, or epistle, we can always connect God’s love story to us back to the first day–when light came forth from darkness.
Let us challenge ourselves to return to the beginning. Take time to be with the first and second chapter of Genesis. Pause to remember the breath of life. Return to the basic beginnings, and discover that there is a depth to these basics as powerful as the waters over the face of the deep….
all good things to each of you,
Read more from Darian Duckworth at her blog.