One of the great things about my job as director of the YES Foundation of White Center is that I am around a lot of talented young people and I often have the privilege of seeing people in the throes of their own creative process. For someone who doesn’t feel particularly creative, it’s an exciting thing to witness. Although it can be a little messy and feel a bit perilous at times, this place where someone brings into existence that which did not exist before feels holy to me. It has made me ponder God’s creative process.
I have been thinking about something a teenager said at DubCee (a program of YES Foundation) a few months ago. We got into this rather interesting conversation about Genesis 1:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
We were “hovering” around the idea of the Spirit of God hovered. Charlie, a 16-year-old who loves to draw and is pretty good at it, commented, “I get that ’cause when I am about to draw something, I sort of hover. I have to think about what I’m gonna do, what’s gonna happen. Sometimes, I do that for a long time before I can start…sometimes it just comes to me.” I was taken by the far away look in Charlie’s eyes…as if he suddenly realized that he and God had something in common.
The image of God hovering over the dark, over that which was void and without form, simultaneously comforts and rattles me. On the one hand, the calming image of God’s spirit brooding over the deep much like an artist would hover over a blank canvas. On the other, what one translation calls a “watery abyss” so close at hand. When I think about the lives of some of the teenagers with whom we share our days, words like “dark” and “void” come to mind. On some days, even the word “abyss” might be applicable. Sometimes I feel that the most important, most significant thing that we get to do is be on the receiving end when a teenager trusts us enough to ask this question:
“Where is God when my life feels so dark?”
Frankly, this question dogs our kids. The question itself broods, lurks, when you are 14 years old, and you are managing a life that includes parents who struggle with addictions, brothers who are involved in gangs, friends who are sixteen and pregnant—again. When your family is evicted from your home not necessarily because your parents couldn’t pay rent but because your landlord couldn’t hold on to the house in this economy. When your reality is going to school and holding your breath because it seems like a whole month has gone by where nobody has died and you’re not relieved—you’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Besides that, there was a helicopter “hovering” over your block last night, and now you can’t help but wonder…
If that was our life, maybe we might understand the gravity of the question, “Where is God when my life feels so dark?” I think we know that sometimes the best answer to that question is silence, but I am aware that our journey with kids requires us to offer something tangible, something real. Charlie has an idea about what it is to hover over something that is not yet formed. Might God be hovering over our lives as well, brooding over the deep and the dark? Can hope come from this image of God’s Spirit hovering over the watery abyss that is so often our lives? I think so. I hope so because what comes next is verse 3:
And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.
We are waiting for “God said,” and then we are waiting for “Light.” Some days it seems more complicated than that, but at the end of most of my days, in my heart, I know it boils down to waiting and working and walking with our young friends through these years that can be troubling, trying and very chaotic. These are young people who have much to learn and even more to show us about perseverance, character and hope.
We know that we have a lot to learn, too and hopefully will have a lot to show about our own perseverance, character and hope. I am praying that we are able to sense God’s Spirit hovering and brooding over our lives and those of our loved ones.
(Originally written for http://geographyofgrace.com in April, 2009)