“...the earth was a formless void…”
This phrase, in the well-known first verses of the Bible, engages the imagination, and is worth a pause for contemplation. We may want to quickly rush to the part where God turns on the light, but maybe it’s okay for us to linger in the liminal space of the darkness that covers the face of the deep.
Many of us are “fixers;” we want to identify the problem, develop a plan to correct it, implement the plan, and move on. A “formless void” needs to be formed, it needs to be filled in, it needs structure and substance. Nature abhors a vacuum, right?
Our impatience is a product of our sinfulness. We want things done on our time, in our way, by our own calculations. We forget that we are we and God is God.
This impatience turns us into our selves by prioritizing our own impulses and thereby away from one another. When we turn away from our neighbors, we fall short of the vision God has for this world, that we love one another as Christ loves us. When we turn away from our neighbors, we are unable to hear them. When we turn away from the world around us, we lose sight of the Gospel.
When things feel particularly chaotic, as they do these days, I take comfort in these first lines from Genesis. “The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep.” The comfort comes from the next phrase: “...while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.”
In the formless void, the Holy Spirit sweeps. Within the impenetrable darkness, the Holy Spirit broods. In the chaos of the season, the Holy Spirit hovers among us, within us, and in between us. Therein lies our hope. We are in a liminal space. We are in a wilderness season. A time of uncertainty and weirdness. And we may be in a hurry for someone to just turn on the light so we can get out of this mess.
To be sure, we must not sit passively, but rather we must actively engage the liminal space of this moment. We must be fully present to the formless void. We have to become fully aware of the darkness. We need to look into the face of the deep in order to see the sweeping presence of the Holy Spirit.