Tumbling in the Sand
The featured image is by Shelly Fanguy. Check out her beautiful work and the wonderful blog of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Mt Lebanon, Pennsylvania here: Bible 365 at St. Paul’s
“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” – Genesis 1:1-2
I took a course in seminary called Genesis Interpreted. It was absolutely excellent and we explored the book of Genesis through the lens of interpreters through the ages. This passage, Genesis 1:1-2 took up the first week of class (Actually, Genesis 1 took almost the entire first half of the semester…). Really, there is that much to unpack in this first two verses: everything from the nature of what was before creation (nothing or chaos…?) to God’s reason for creating at all (yes, it comes up even here).
It’s a poem, you know. In Hebrew this part is so creatively poetic and we lose so much when we translate it into boring old English prose. If I were to do a poetic translation it would sound more like this:
the heavens and the earth
And the earth was
Breath of God
Over the water
Well, that’s a little different, isn’t it?
I guess the thing that this translation helps me to see most of all (on this read anyway—trust me, it changes) is that this whole pre-creation is pure chaos, frightening, infinite darkness, unexplainable, beyond words and understanding. It is something that is kind of frightening, really. And there is God, dancing in the midst of it. It is not like God is disturbed by chaos or darkness. It’s not like God is upset by things that are unexplainable or messy. It’s not like God is bothered by things that could be frightening or uncontrolled. No, instead God dances in the middle of it and out of it God creates light and beauty and creation.
I know there are times in my life that have been more than a little chaotic. Times when I had no idea what was going to happen or how it would work out. I’ve certainly walked with others who have had even more chaos in their lives: when everything was swirling around them, out of control and seemingly hell-bent on destroying them. Life is sometimes a really chaotic mess. I wonder if during those times, there might be some comfort in knowing that God dances in the middle of the chaos, undisturbed, undaunted, undeterred—and that God speaks purpose and meaning even into the depths of darkness, whispering stars into being, breathing new life and creation all around us, and promising us new things, always creating and recreating. It’s not like God can’t use the chaos and messiness in our lives—in fact, it’s all God ever works with. And it’s not like we need to know exactly what new creation will look like: all we need to know is that when God rests after all that God has and will do it will be very, very good.