Creating Out of Nothing

August 14, 2013

I am just now finding language for the season of extreme loss and tragedy that touched our lives from November 2008-May 2010. The thoughts that have been locked in my head and heart are finding their way into words. Not all the thoughts or experiences, but many are taking shape in the written and spoken word.

I am also finding that with the written and spoken word, the griefs of the past become at the same time more real and more distant. It seems strange, and yet as I stood preaching with  a congregation a few weeks ago, I was able to offer one small experience in the drowning myriad of experiences of that time in the hopes that someone present might hear what they needed to hear- a story that reaches their current story and reality. What was once too painful to even whisper is now becoming part of the thread of my life. And with language comes the power to own one’s story. I learned long ago that if you do not tell your story, others will fill the space with their own stories- and sometimes they will create stories that are false stories about your experience. From one’s silence, many mistruths can be born. When I heard someone say that to me, I agreed, but I protested internally, “What about the times when language fails? When the matters of the heart are too great and painful to dare breathe into words? What then?” As others spoke my story without true knowledge, I sat by, mute by the experience. And I learned not only the power of speaking to our human experience, but also the incredible burden of responsibility that if we are to speak for others, we must do so with great seriousness, intense accuracy, and careful sensitivity.

I knew then that words would eventually come. And they have. Nearly 5 years in the making.

If anything, my story has become one of creatio ex nihilo. Genesis 1 tells us that before creation was enacted through the spoken word, there was nothing. Darkness. The Deep. And the Spirit that brooded, hovering like a bird, over all that wasn’t. From that nothing, God spoke all things into existence, breathing his life into humankind. Creation from nothing.

In the same way, this same God, still creates ex nihilo. He creates out of loss, out of deficit, out of nothingness. While I still don’t have language for all that we encountered, slowly, very slowly, His creation has been happening for nearly 5 years. In fact, finding a voice to the extremes of grief and the survival that followed, is creatio ex nihilo. From the loss of our first baby to this moment, God has been creating. Creating the life of my son from the loss of a daughter. Creating a communion with him from the loss of community. Creating self discovery and growth from the darkness of depression. Creating a theology of the body from a struggle with chronic illness. Creating an understanding of Jesus from the deficit called misunderstanding. Creating a security from a time of insecurity. Creating a calling from the rejection and abandonment. Creating a sense of purpose from the listlessness of uncertainty.

It might be surprising to know that it can sometimes be quite hard to give up our nothingness. Our deficit. We don’t think it will be, but it can be. Nothingness gives us an excuse. It gives us a reason. It gives us an “out.” When we have felt the terrifying closeness of a God who comes to do new things, it’s actually quite easy to resist him, wanting our familiar misery over the uncomfortable mystery of God. But until we offer him our nothingness, we cannot be filled with his breathing creation in us.

Some of that fear to give up what little we have, the nothing we hold, is that God may indeed take us even deeper into the darkness before we begin to see his work. He wants to hover over us too. When we are alone with his hovering spirit over the deep dark nothingness in us, we come face to face with a God who loves beyond measure, but who also comes to us with a purpose. And making that purpose come to life in us can be scary for us. Especially when we are alone in the Deep. But the brooding Spirit of God is intent on creation in us.

If we will let it happen. Passive, helpless, unable to breathe until he breathes into us.

And so He does. And He has. And He still is. Creatio ex nihilio.

Creating a story of love that reaches even the crevices of the soul that has been tattered by loss. Creating newness in the Deep in each of us until we are able to speak our story with the lexicon of grace. Creating life amid the nothing until we are full with the brooding Spirit of God.

PostScript: Our daughter, had she been born on her due date, would have turned 4 tomorrow, Thursday, August 15th. I still think of her often, wondering what her life would have been like and what our lives would be like with her in it. While I still do not have understanding for her loss, my illness that followed, the paycuts, job losses, and everything else that occurred, I am grateful for her small, fleeting life. I am glad to have had her be part of our journey and look forward to being with her again someday. 

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