In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 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.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
Genesis 1:1-5 NIV
In the beginning...
In the beginning, Elohim. Elohim, a Hebrew masculine noun meaning great and God
In the beginning, Rûach. Rûach, a Hebrew feminine noun meaning spirit, wind, breath
In the beginning, Logos.* Logos, a Greek masculine noun meaning message, blueprint, Word (*John 1:1)
Now the earth was tohuw wa-bohuw…and the Spirit of God was râchaph...
Tohuw wa-bohuw, Hebrew nouns meaning without form, void, chaotic, confused, obscure, empty
Râchaph, a Hebrew verb meaning to soften, to relax into, to hover, to brood, to cherish
Because God is beyond time (and actually creates markers of time in the act of Creation), we are dropped right into the heart of the story of creation, a story with no beginning point and no end point. The three-in-one-God – Elohim, Rûach, and Logos are present in a space that is without form or order. It is chaotic and obscure.
Jewish scholars are all in agreement that each word in the Scriptures is there for a specific purpose. They believe the writers did not use excess or insufficient words. Each word written is divinely purposed.
As I meditate on the words chosen to describe this pre-creation state, it strikes me that they’re not judgmental words, as in, this chaotic pre-creation state is not deemed “bad” or “good,” it just is. We know the universe was chaotic and without order but that doesn’t mean that it was in conflict or at war.
The spiritual truth [is] that harmony is more fundamental than warfare in the nature of reality itself…
(Parker Palmer, http://www.couragerenewal.org/parker/writings/leading-from-within/)
Amidst this chaos and darkness, the Spirit of God hovered or brooded.
The image this word conjurs is that of a mother bird hovering over her eggs, allowing her being and warmth to incubate new life. It’s a life-giving, watchful presence.
God loves to create order out of chaos and still, natural chaos has its place.
Quaker minister and author Parker Palmer writes, "Chaos is the precondition to creativity: as every creation myth has it, life itself emerged from the void. Even that which has been created needs to be returned to chaos from time to time so it can be regenerated in more vital form. When a leader fears chaos so deeply that he or she tries to eliminate it, the shadow of death will fall across everything that leader approaches—for the ultimate answer to all of life’s messiness is death."
When God initiates creation, God doesn’t banish darkness but balances it with Light. This disorder and chaos isn’t separate from God – the Spirit of God is right there hovering over it.
But God, the Father of Lights, loves to bring order and alignment in the midst of chaos.
And so God creates Light and calls it good.
God names both the darkness and the light and by doing so, shows us He is Lord of both, God over all. Both light and dark answer to Him.
Now we would be remiss if we only talked about this darkness as natural chaos because darkness also shows up in the created world as sin. The two are distinct and yet our response is the same – we live in denial and active avoidance of confronting both. As children of the Father of Lights we’re drawn to Light and it feels much happier to focus on that instead of darkness.
“Light is sweet; how pleasant to see a new day dawning.” - Ecclesiastes 11:7
Oh but my friend, in the order of creation, darkness comes before the light. Evening comes before morning. We cannot know deep transformative intimacy with God when we live in denial of darkness. In the words of Brene Brown, “We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”
The darkness of sin goes way deeper than just sinful behaviors. These behaviors are the overflow of what’s going on inside (Luke 6:45).
James Finley says with brutal honesty, “There is something in me that puts on fig leaves of concealment, kills my brother, builds towers of confusion, and brings cosmic chaos upon the earth. There is something in me that loves darkness rather than light, that rejects God and thereby rejects my own deepest reality as a human person made in the image and likeness of God.”
God’s first act of creation is Light and the imprint of that Light shines at the core of our being. And still darkness enters and obscures light from shining in and shining out. God invites and empowers us to see this darkness with clear eyes.
“Spiritual transformation involves the purification of sight. Jesus said that if our eye is healthy, our whole body will be full of light (Luke 11:34). We have to learn to see – and accept – what is really there. Stripping away our illusions is part of this process, as it reorients us toward reality. To see God as God is – not as who we want God to be – requires that we see our self as we actually are. For the same cloud of illusions obscures our view of both God and ourselves… (David Benner, The Gift of Being Yourself)
True revelation of this darkness, the kind of revelation that allows you to see with clear eyes the presence of darkness, is never outside of the hovering Spirit of God. In fact, we can take heart (find courage), because the darkness will never overcome the light. The Light will always shine through (John 1:5)
This light, this Logos, this blueprint was present at creation.
We are co-creators with God. This is a theme we’ll return to again and again because it’s core to our identities. And so if that’s true, then perhaps God is inviting us to soften into this natural chaos and confront the delusions of sin. And perhaps, as we do, we witness first-hand the bursting forth of Light, good Light.