Tuesday, May 10, 2016

all the tohu-va-vohu


Steve Weins, in his book Beginnings, describes how the patterns of God's creation as recorded in Genesis 1 often play out in a resoundingly similar way in our own lives:  

"Let there be light.  These are the words that ushered in Day One.  But before there was light, there was darkness and chaos.  'The earth lacked shape and was totally empty, and a dark fog draped over the deep' (Genesis 1:2, The Voice)...  The Hebrew phrase used to describe that which lacked shape and was totally empty, before anything was created, is tohu-va-vohu.  Listen to the consonants in that word, how they swirl around, looking for a place to land.  I love this phrase.  It crashes around on your tongue, chaotic and unpredictable.  Tohu-va-vohu describes the empty places in your life where you can't see, you can't hear, and you don't know... Tohu-va-vohu is dark, empty fog, and we hate it so badly that we will try anything to escape it.  As it turns out, we cannot escape the emptiness.  But there is something else that exists, hovering over the tohu-va-vohu, vibrating and waiting to bring creative energy and life.  

'Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness.  God's Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.'  (Genesis 1:2)

The word for 'spirit' in Hebrew is ruach, which means 'wind' or 'breath.'  It also describes the creative energy of God, which both generates life and holds it together.  It's full of life, energizing and animating all the emptiness, everywhere.  Whatever else it means, it is used to describe something rigid and calcified.  It is the Ruach that initiates new beginnings, and without it, we stall out... The God who hovered over the waters of chaos in the beginning of all things is still hovering, always inviting us into something beautiful and new."

Steve Weins, Beginnings


I watched my mother's tohu-va-vohu play out this past week in the form of an estate sale.  Her new beginning began two years ago when she moved to Texas, but sorting through a house full of memories and deciding what to keep and what to sell and what to give away is both heart-wrenching and logistically challenging.  To empty a house that wrapped you in its arms of light when you were in a dark place, a house whose door was like the lid of a music box from your past, a house that held memories in its walls and in its books and in its boxes... that is a tohu-va-vohu.  But God's Spirit is hovering over the life and heart of my mother, bringing creative energy and life, inviting her into something beautiful and new.  

My daughter's tohu-va-vohu comes with a rite of passage- a swirl of emotion and growth as she moves to middle school and youth group and change.  But God's Spirit is hovering over the life and heart of my daughter, bringing creative energy and life, inviting her into something beautiful and new. 

My own tohu-va-vohu is swirling around an impending move, the start of a new business, and thoughts of how to raise teenagers and energetic boys, my cribs empty and my heart grieving it.   When you have a baby, all you're thinking about is how to decorate the nursery and sleep through the night and deal with a teething baby and you don't think about having to raise a teenager- a challenge by which, to be perfectly honest, I am extremely intimidated. 
Tyranny of the urgent runs my days and I am exhausted.  But God's Spirit is hovering over my life and my heart, brining creative energy and life, inviting me into something beautiful and new.  


Navy tie ceremony at our school, a rite of passage





Thanks be to God for being the life and Spirit and creative energy hovering over all of the chaos of the beginnings in our lives.

His spirit is there- hovering over three generations in my family.  And with his help we will not stall out but will press on to the next beautiful and new chapter of our lives.

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