In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.
I am not a creative person. When we put up our Christmas tree, I place ornaments any which-way, and Tom comes behind me, rearranging them in a more appealing pattern. He does the decorating in our house, I complain about how much money it will cost us. I have an awful time putting together an outfit, and I know that adding jewelry would help things, but it takes extra time and it makes my brain hurt to try to figure out what to pair with what.
I have been writing a little more recently, and because I am not a very creative person, the creativity of writing has been making me pause and analyze (because one thing I am very good at doing is analyzing). I don’t consider myself much of a writer, but the past few blog posts took creativity I didn’t know I had. My blog posts evolve very (very, very) slowly from poorly written, disjointed paragraphs to something that starts to make some sense. And eventually, I read a post that doesn’t seem like it came from me. It starts pretty awful, but now I read it, and it sounds kind of good.
As I consider the brief spurts of creativity from myself, I think about the creativity of God. The way he creates order from chaos, wisdom from foolishness, sacred from the profane. The way he can take something completely awful and turn it into something that is a blessing for the world. He doesn’t just create beautiful things from the dust; he creates beautiful things from the dung.
The Bible begins with a God who sweeps over “the formless void and darkness” and from this, creates light and life. When I read those verses as simply a scientific statement, they lose most of their truth and power. I think about atoms and molecules and how light existed before the sun and what God was doing all that time, hovering over that big sea. And it’s fine to think about that, but I don’t think the writers of this text intended for these verses to be read that way. They weren’t just proclaiming the historical event of creation’s origin, they were proclaiming a creative God. A God who is still creating today. He is still separating light from darkness, still forming something out of nothing, still breathing life to barren ground. From a poor Jewish girl to a dirty stable to a cursed death on a tree, he is consistently taking the ordinary and dark things of life and making them sacred and brilliant.
If you know me, you know I am not very quiet about my belief that God does not cause or ordain the bad things in our life. It’s a theology I’ve spent years working through, and it’s the theology that has set me free to embrace a good and loving God. Every time I wrestle with the sovereignty of God over evil, I end up pounding my fists against the idea of a God who would intentionally hurt me. I don’t care if it’s for good, it is not okay to kill someone just to make a point. It is not okay to ordain suffering just for your own glory. That is not a good God to me. I do believe he is sovereign, but not in that way.
And yet I can’t deny that this same God who does not cause evil loves to form beautiful things from the bad and the ugly. He is utterly creative in working all things for good. And he does this over and over again, sweeping over the dark and formless void and creating order from the chaos. It doesn’t mean that the bad things are good. They are still bad. They are still broken in ways they should not be. But it does means that no matter what bad things happen, somehow, in some way, a creative God will bring good from it.
I am a different person today due to suffering. A better person. And it makes me think about the creativity of God in using something that he hates to make me better, to make me more like him. It’s one thing to look at our lives, think about something awful that happened to us and say “God did this so that I would become a better person.”It’s another thing to say “God did not cause this. He had nothing to do with the origin of this awful thing. And yet he has somehow worked so much good out of it that it feels like it was his plan all along.” Sovereignty does not mean absolute control to me, it means unending and unfailing creativity.
When I feel terrified and alone and exhausted, I know he is sweeping over the darkness in my heart, just as he swept over the dark void in the beginning. I know he is creating something beautiful out of the agony, even as he weeps with me in my pain. It’s the joy of Christmas, that we have a God who is with us. Not far away or aloof, not turning a blind eye to the oppressed, but with us, creating beauty from ashes. As we exit this Christmas season and enter into a new year, a wide expanse of unknown trials and pain, we can trust that we have a God who has not ceased creating beauty from the bleakest of circumstances.
I don’t really know how to pray these days, as we sit in the midst of so many unanswered prayers. I know I’m not guaranteed prosperity and health and fertility, and I know that we may still have a very long road ahead of us when it comes to building our family. But I also know that whatever darkness presents itself, I have a God who will create good from it. No matter how ugly, desperate or dark, he will create beauty, hope and light. It’s all I can do these days, to offer up that which I can’t control and believe that he will work it to good, for me and for the world.