When I was on an archaeological dig in Israel, we took a day off to sightsee. We went to Belvoir, a Crusader-era castle, in Galilee. The castle overlooks the Jordan River valley – and the main road over which conquerors have come for centuries – long before Belvoir was built 1,000 years ago.
First came the Egyptians, then the Assyrians, then the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Sasanians, the Muslims, the Crusaders, the Mongols, the Ottomans, the Jordanians, and the Israelis. Looking down on that road and all that history, I thought of all the blood that had been spilled, the suffering, and the sheer, inhumane purposelessness of it all. I remember wondering: Is this how God feels looking down on the dark, unconquerable chaos of our world today?
Genesis says that God doesn’t feel that way or act that way. God doesn’t look down in despair, feeling overmatched. What’s more: In the beginning, God wasn’t “up there.” God was down here; interacting with the dark, formless void, shaping it from chaos to cosmos, bringing form and purpose into being; bringing creation to life.
The ruach of God was at work. Ruach means spirit, wind, breath. The spirit of God; the wind of God; the breath of God swept over the waters. What God was doing can be translated many ways: God’s spirit, wind, breath was sweeping, moving, hovering, brooding. In Deuteronomy (32:10-11), this word is used to describe how God cared for the Hebrews during their tough time in the wilderness. God cared for them – and cares for us — like a mother eagle that gently alights upon her nest, hovering maternally over her young, spreading out her wings in protecting, nurturing love.
That’s what God was doing when God’s spirit, wind, breath swept, moved, hovered, and brooded over the dark chaos: God was nurturing goodness out of nothingness so that you, me, all of creation could breathe, live, and love.
This is not ancient history. This is what God is doing today. This is not fancy, irrelevant poetry to be kept in a book. This is practical, essential Truth on which to base your life. God is in the mix. God trumps chaos. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow: God’s continues to hover, sweep, move, and brood over creation to shape it and us for good.
That’s good to know – especially in a pandemic with social unrest and economic instability and with an important, divisive, exhausting election just two days away. We may just be at peak chaos right now.
It certainly feels that way. 50% of adults in America report that they are anxious, depressed, and lapsing into eating disorders, substance abuse, and other chaotic crud because you, me, we just can’t take it anymore.
The news is too grim; the future looks too dark; our nation is too divided. Chaos, uncertainty, and despair reign supreme.
That’s why we get together every seven days to remember that, no, that just isn’t true. God reigns supreme. God is not an apathetic, absentee landlord. God breathes, coaxes, hovers over creation like a potter over the clay, passionately shaping beauty out of a blob; taking the mess we’ve made and reworking it until what is good and right and true prevails.
We know this power is at work right now because Jesus Christ is risen today. Easter means God cannot be stopped. Therefore, God is going to do what God is going to do. The Holy Spirit continues to be poured out upon us and our world to bring about what is good.
We’re like raw vegetables in a slower cooker. All we know is that we’ve been sliced to pieces; dumped in cold water; and left in the dark. Humanly, that is often all we can perceive. But, with faith, we can trust that there is a master chef; there is a wise grandma at work who knows just what they’re doing – and just how to bring us to perfection. When the morning comes, after we’ve simmered all night, something has changed. We’re not exactly sure when, but sometime in the middle of the night, a benign force beyond ourselves has somehow transformed us for good.
A time in county lock up changes us, making us eager to really make things right. A wounding breaks our heart, but we as we put the pieces back together we surprisingly find that our suffering has enlarged our heart, making us more humble, compassionate, and forgiving. A family – or a nation – going through tough times finally learns how to work together. It happens. Maybe it’s happening right now.
Don’t rule out the One who reigns over creation; who broods over creation; who continues to shape dark, hopeless nothingness into hopeful, shining, new beginnings. After all, that’s what happened on Easter – and that is what continues today. So, hang in there. Hold onto hope. And know that God’s Genesis work is not going to stop until all of creation reflects God’s glory, goodness, and grace. Keep acting with God to shape things for good. As we do, the chaotic darkness will pass. God will say, “Let there be light.” And there shall be.