“Now the earth was formless and empty. Darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” – Genesis 1:2
The words formless, empty, and darkness carry a lot of connotations in Hebrew.
Formless תֹּהוּ tôhûw – means wasteland, chaos, and desolation. The image is that of a desert, barren of life.
Void בֹּהוּ bôhûw, means emptiness.
Darkness, בָּרָא bārā’, has the connotation of destruction, death, sorrow, and obscurity.
Barren and empty. Death and destruction. Chaos and desolation. This was where creation began. It was from this place that God created new life. What does this tell us about the way God’s creative process?
Can you picture God hovering over this place like a mother eagle over her chicks? This is the word picture we get here of God’s spirit hovering over creation (see last post).
God looked into the deep darkness and said, “let there be light.”
He looked into the barren emptiness and said “let there be life.”
He looked into the chaos and created order.
Hovering Over Chaos
This is always who He is. He always looks into the darkest places of our world and creates light. He always looks into the barren emptiness and creates life. And He always looks into the most chaotic, messy, and broken places of our world and creates order.
Think about it – the most beautiful things in this world – thing that have the imprints of an infinite, eternal God, emerged from the darkest, messiest places.
The seed from the soil
Man from the dust
Woman from flesh
Babies from the womb
The Spirit of God hovers over the chaos, the mess of our world and speaks life into being. This is the beginning of all things. If indeed all life sprouts up from dirt, then we need to be willing to get a little messy.
Enter the Mess
As an artist, I get this.
When I was an art student in college, I would often get so engrossed in a painting that I would forget my surroundings. I stopped paying attention, for example, to the fact that there was paint on my hands, or that I would frequently itch my nose while painting, or wipe my eye.
My professors would always get a huge laugh of surprise when they came around to view my work. And the work they were laughing at was me!
My husband can always tell when I have had a good painting day when I still have blue paint on my calf or above my eyebrow.
Creation emerges from chaos.
As an artist, I know that in order to create my best work, I must not only be willing to enter the mess of my paints and surrender to the physically disheveling journey of creation, but I must also venture into those very chaotic, dark, and disheveled places in my heart. The places I would rather not go, but the very places where God wants new creation to emerge.
Nancy Hillis puts it this way in her book. The Artist’s Journey:
If creation emerged from a barren, dark, and chaotic place, then so does our soul in the new creation.
And in a post-fall world, we know that venturing into the chaos doesn’t just mean the mess and chaos of hairy schedules or chaotic traffic conditions.
The chaos we must enter these days is the chaos of sin and suffering. It is over this dark and barren place that God speaks. “let there be light. Let there be life.” He makes order out of the chaos of the deep. This is just who He is.
As an artist. I know that if I am to create in His presence. I cannot bring anything with me except my disheveled self. And when I create, it means I must allow myself to be refined in that refiner’s fire of creativity where I cannot hide, but bring all the shame, fear, and dross of my sinful nature.
And there, God hovers over it and creates something new. This is a journey towards the garden of intimacy with God where I must return again to my inner child full of wonder and innocence.
Re-Entering the Garden as a Child
He leads me back to the garden where new life can be cultivated. The place where my soul is naked and I feel no shame in His presence.
All of us have this sacred garden within us. The space where we allow our truest selves to emerge – the one that existed in the heart of God before the world began. We must venture to that place with wonder and curiosity like little children – holding onto nothing and allowing our souls to come before him naked and unashamed.
Over Sabbatical, God invited me to enter into this sacared space of creating with him and I sensed Him say:
“It’s time to start unfolding into becoming and here you will create your best work.
Here, wide-eyed and refreshed, with dreams spilling over with wonder – your inspiration will run ahead of you like a little toddler not waiting for you to catch up.
Attend to the child awake within you – present to each moment. She has more to teach you than you could imagine. Be present to her. Let her run around naked and don’t try to get her to put on your clothes of expectation or decency or propriety.
You were naked in the garden, you know. Free and wild and strong. You laughed with unmitigated joy and you sang unhindered in the gaze of others. You knew no shame of not being enough or not being productive or creative. You just were. You only know how to be what you were and the other things flowed freely from you. Cultivate that intimacy with me and I will set you free to be naked and unashamed.
“Move out of the way with all your agenda and grown up to do lists and stop saying, “Just a minute… as soon as I get this laundry folded or as soon as I clean up the kitchen. Your laundry and kitchen can wait – your inner toddler (and your real, live ones grasping for your attention, cannot).
Too many times of just saying, ‘Wait’ and she will stop asking. Too many times being rejected for something more important and she will go into hiding.”
Entering Through the Veil
I realized that for a large part of my life I have told my true self to wait because there was always something more important or pressing in front of me that I had to do. But the truth is, I was afraid. I was afraid of entering the creative process that forces me to let go of ways I cover my own shame in my desire for approval. In my desire to be loved.
But how do we get back? How can we return to the garden – awake and alive with God again?
If the garden emerged from the dirt, then the way back to that garden is through the dirt. Through the veil that separates us from the presence of God. And of course, the only way through is through Jesus himself.
The truth is, Jesus entered the mess of our broken humanity and created beauty out of it just like He did in the beginning. This is what He does. This is the brilliance of the incarnation and the Cross that leads to Resurrection. Any place in this world where there is darkness, emptiness, or chaos, Jesus steps into and brings a resurrection. A new creation. Always.
So – in order to get to that sacred garden of my true self, I had to enter with Jesus through the darkness and chaos of my shame and fear that kept new things from being created. I had to pass through it like a refiner’s fire and allow Him to burn off all the dross of my pride, vainglory, workaholism, and control and allow Him to breathe anew again.
The creative space, then, is one of purity and purification. It is a way through the Cross. There, He burns off anything that doesn’t have a place in that holy place of creativity with Him.
Through the refiner’s fire of surrendering to God through creating, I must unlearn how to perform and produce. I must allow God to crucify any form of self-justification and become like a child again, relishing in the beauty of what is being created through me. Over time, I’ve found that I can’t really paint any other way – and we aren’t meant to really live any other way either.
Entering the Mess of our Souls
We must enter the chaos of our souls and our world and allow God to illuminate what is there with the light of Christ.
We must be willing to reveal what is empty, dark, and chaotic to ourselves, to others, and most importantly, to God.
For, it is through this process of allowing God to illuminate what is in the darkness that we can make sense of who we are and who we are becoming. When we are loved in the midst of the darkness within, then what was darkness becomes a light.
“Everything exposed by the light becomes visible – and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” – Ephesians 5:13
Everything new that emerges after the fall always begins this way – out of darkness. Out of the mess and ruins of the fall, it is where God does his best work. Just when we think everything is broken and beyond fixing. Just when we think we are beyond hope, beyond resurrection – God bursts something new from the ground.
The truth is, Jesus entered the mess and created beauty out of it. This is what he does. This is the brilliance of the incarnation and the Cross that leads to Resurrection. Any place in this world where there is the mess of loss or pain or sin. Jesus steps into and can bring a resurrection. A new creation. Always.
- What looks like chaos in your life right now? What if God was hovering over that place looking to speak new life and order into it.
- What might it look like to venture with God into the chaos of your soul – both the mess of your humanity and the mess of sin and allow Him to create something new?
- What new life could emerge from the darkness when God speaks over it? Take some time now to allow God to speak words of life and light over areas of death and darkness in your life.
You hovered over the chaos and creator order
You entered the mess of our humanity and the mess of the fall
To resurrect us and make us a new creation
Would you do the same again today in the midst of all the places that feel out of control in our world and in my heart?
Bette Dickinson is a part of our Traverse City campus and frequently shares her gifts with the greater Kensington community. She is an artist, writer, and speaker whose mission is to awaken the soul through beauty and wonder in ways that fill people with meaning and fuel their purpose. Find out more at https://www.bettedickinson.com/.