Genesis 1 and Our Sad, Sad Dirt

In the beginning of God creating the heavens and the earth,* the earth was confusion and emptiness. Darkness was upon the face of the depths and the breath of God was hovering upon the face of the waters.

Genesis 1:1-2

This past spring, Eric and I chose a spot in our backyard and broke ground for our garden. What we found was more than dirt: broken glass, garbage, and chunks of something black and rock-like. We had apparently picked a site that was once used for a coal dump (our home was built in 1911, when coal would have been the primary fuel for heat and cooking), and then at some point, a garbage dump. Our garden is a site of confusion. It also shows no signs of life beneath the surface; this soil is emptiness.

In Genesis 1 we find God hovering over the depths, dwelling in the darkness, the confusion, and the emptiness.  The very breath of God hung over it, giving it infinite potential and value.

Most of us know how Genesis 1 progresses: God creates and creates and creates in a way that only God can create and delights in what has been created at every step. What I sense in our backyard is a reversal.  Delight has been replaced by utility. Literal garbage has replaced what the soil needs to live as it was created to live.

But the soil is still here, in its confusion and emptiness, and God is still here, dwelling in this creation, sustaining this creation with her very breath.  In our backyard is the opportunity to remember that we are not meant to be parasites, sucking the life out of the earth and offering nothing in return. No, we are not made to be parasites; we are meant to be creators, delighters, kin to the earth.  There is a relationship of mutuality to enter into here.

Next week we will start to think about ways to shed our parasitic habits. I hope that in doing so, the scales would fall off of our eyes. I hope we begin to see together that the breath of God that was dwelling in the confusion and emptiness at the time of creation dwells here even now, in our manufactured confusion and emptiness. Are we willing to touch the hope with our bare hands? That’s the question.

I can’t wait to continue the discussion. Blessings, friends!

*This is a more literal rendering from the Hebrew. For more on Genesis 1 and why it does not imply an “ex nihilo,” absolute beginning of all created things, see William P. Brown’s The Seven Pillars of Creation. 

Brown, William P. The Seven Pillars of Creation: The Bible, Science, and the Ecology of Wonder. Oxford: Oxford Press, 2010.




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