It’s the very first week on earth. God’s paintbrushes are still damp from the intricate landscapes He has just unfurled.
The wet clay of creatures He has designed and set in motion is still setting. He has created, observed, and taken pleasure in His work, repeating over all He has made, in a cadence of enjoyment after each day — good, good, good, and, at the last stroke, very good. Then instead of an encore, instead of a thundering repeat of productivity, He pauses.
- On the seventh day, God rests. The point of the productivity, it turns out, is to enjoy it.
Our church once produced a little coloring booklet for kids about creation that was six pages long. On each of the six pages was the element God made on that day that they could color and learn more about, reflecting on God’s good work in seas and skies, birds and fish, and human families. But as I turned to the end, I wondered, Where is the seventh page? Without a Sabbath we are trapped in an endless cycle of making. The need for the seventh day exists now more than ever, even if it’s something we don’t know how to draw or color.
The gift God gave on the seventh day wasn’t leisure or recovery. It didn’t happen because God was tired or out of ideas. God is the epitome of order. His rest is the opposite of chaos. It’s not creation’s work paused, but instead the enjoyment of chaos under control, creation’s work completed. The seventh day isn’t a picture of inactivity or disengagement; it’s the moment the very Creator of all things moved in as a resident to enjoy creation alongside the inhabitants he made there.
Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, Jesus echoes, and I will give you rest. — Matthew 11:28
- Living with Jesus is an invitation to recognize that we are now living in day seven.
We can settle in alongside Him for a life of action and reflection, enjoying the world He has made, but also seeing it as a place He has invited us to paint with our own brushes as well. Recognizing that we’re living now in day seven means we don’t have to do all the doing. Because He is here with us, we can let it happen. Too often we only count to six.
Yet on the crowning day, the world holds grandeur and intricacy both too big and too small for us to behold. Back before those seven days, the bowl held chaos and void and darkness, a seemingly hopeless ingredient list if it were not for one thing: the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Hovering is one of those words that helps us understand action and reflection. It holds the sense that something amazing is just about to happen, but maybe not yet. To know the hovering Spirit of God is to have hope in this muddled world that converting chaos is possible, that the pain and mess we see today is redeemable.
The word translated “hovering” is a unique word in Hebrew. It’s a word of winged nurture, a verb that calls to mind a bird hovering over her eggs, protecting them. The same word in Deuteronomy pictures God caring for us
like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young. — Deuteronomy 32:11
The Holy Spirit will show up hovering over waters again and again in Scripture. The hovering Spirit will always be a sign that chaos is about to be converted, that creation is breaking forth from darkness to newness of life. The Spirit is sent out as a dove over the waters after Noah’s flood. The Spirit hovers as a dove descending on Jesus as He comes out of the water of baptism. Each time, it’s a mark that creation is beginning all over again.
To know that the Spirit was there hovering at the beginning, converting chaos into creation, is to know that the chaos we live in today is redeemable. I go back to that image again and again when things are hard. It gives me hope that when I see brokenness, when the cracks are emerging in the fabric of the world around me, it’s possible that instead of something breaking, something is hatching.
Ancient Christians who worshiped in the language of Syriac took the word for hovering and borrowed it for their liturgy in worship. In Syriac, the verb hovering, the one used for the Holy Spirit in Genesis, is used to describe the action of birds who are brooding over their nests, incubating the eggs that will hatch into their offspring. They brought this rare word into their liturgy in two places, using it to call to mind what God was doing not just in the beginning but in their worship services that day.
The first place where they borrowed the imagery of hovering was at the Communion table, where the priest held a hand over the cup in an act of consecrating the wine for the Eucharist. The other place was when they hovered hands over the head of a new bishop being consecrated to lead the church, what we would call the laying on of hands to bless someone for the act of ministry.
Both of these acts are bold imitations of God’s actions in creation.
When the hand is held over the cup, it’s during a prayer we call the epiclesis, the prayer that invites the Holy Spirit to transform the bread and wine on the table in an act of mystery we do not fully understand that takes what is ordinary and makes it extraordinary. In my tradition, we ask God to “make this be for us the body and blood of Christ.”
Talk about new creation emerging from chaos! There is no darker, more chaotic moment in history than the Cross. For the darkest, emptiest, most chaotic moment of history to be turned into a blessing and celebration for us is just mind-boggling.
To hold up a cup and say that the awful, chaotic moment where Christ’s blood was spilled has been transformed into the act that will restore the order of this world is perhaps God’s most surprising act of re-creation ever. If God can redeem the evil of the Cross, He can redeem any evil situation we face.
- If He can raise His Son from the dead, then nothing in our own lives is too dead for Him to redeem.
When someone hovers their hand in this blessing, they are saying, essentially, “Hatch a miracle from chaos in the cup, Lord.”
The second act of liturgical hovering — the hands placed over a bishop at consecration — is a calling down of the Holy Spirit to transform a human heart and bless the person for ministry.
And since we have an understanding of all Christians being called to serve God in the priesthood of all believers, we could say this prayer over each person who follows Jesus: “Here is my heart, Lord. Hover over the chaos there and make it fit for your purposes. Use me to serve You, Lord — even the most broken parts of me.”
I’m not sure what’s harder: to redeem the chaos against God Himself at the Cross or to transform the chaos of the human heart — that’s a tough one.
- If God can hatch a miracle from the chaos of the Cross, we can also dare to ask God, “Lord, hatch a miracle from the chaos in me.”
A few months after my high-risk pregnancy doctor dismissed me and left me holding only the instructions to “let it happen,” it did. It happened. I lay in a hospital bed, gazing into the face of my son and marveled that all the pain and chaos and loss had come to this — a tiny and beautiful human being whose messy and wonderful life had just begun. I thought about all the parents I’d heard over the years who expressed the wish that they could control their children’s actions and outcomes, whether as babies or toddlers or far into adulthood. This was a lesson I figured we had learned early, but we’d need reminders often enough. This life was ours to hold and guide, but in the end, it was not ours at all.
Working in concert with a creative God means being both producer and product, co-creator and created one. We are a mess in the making, but we are also making the mess of the world into something beautiful. Next time the world seems to tear at the seams, or life feels like it’s showing cracks under the strain, watch carefully.
The cracks where brokenness once grew may turn out to be the exact spot where beauty will hatch.
Excerpted with permission from Out of Chaos by Jessica LaGrone, copyright Jessica LaGrone.
* * *
Does your life feel filled with chaos? We’re living in Day Seven… we don’t have to do all the doing. Ask Him today, “Lord, hatch a miracle from the chaos in me.” ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full