What Was It Like?

What was it like, to be the originator of the universe, the maker of all things? Did the idea come in a flash, pushing and shoving its way into the imagination or was there a lot of musing: time spent lost in a creational fog filled with stops and starts - a cosmic wastebasket nearby filling itself with ideas that just didn't quite cut it.

click on picture to enlarge
click on picture to enlarge

Or was it both, fast and furious as well as slow and nebulous? Contrary to some ways of thinking we'll never know in that literal "for sure" kind of way but perhaps we do know in ways that are closer to home, down to our very bones, in a hard-wiring kind of way.

I'm slowly reading Beginnings of Desire, Aviva Zornberg's book on Genesis. I understand a fraction of it. She is one of those unique writers where evocative and dense come together so it is a slow read but so worthwhile. At one point she makes the philosophical observation that God is The Author in search of authors. As I cross the bridge over into the second half of life I have learned that the God I love and the God that loves his creation is a covenantal God, the God of invitations, relational to the core. And so, we are invited to become storytellers and through our stories it is the hope of a loving creator that our stories will shed light.

If we see our destiny as co-authors in light of the phrase "We are made in God's image" we come to a deeper understanding of our identity. This journey towards self-discovery begins to make so much more sense when we see that God is the ultimate spinner of tales and out of a spirit of love and cooperation he has marked us for life. We too are called to weave together plotlines including all its twists and turns. We are not set apart from the world but rather we find ourselves in the company of a generative spirit, the source of all light which illumines us, setting us forth to make shadowy landscapes habitable and dark paths visible.

Our theme for this Web Edition is "Stories to Live By" and I wanted to reflect through both photography and watercolour the story that started all other stories. Myths and stories are reminders, twigging our memories and evoking the love of mystery and resolution. My hope is that both brush and lens will capture in a small way this theme of Story, reflecting on our origins and the beauty and the frailty that got its start so long ago. No science lesson here but hopefully a reflective glance back in time. In a sense it is the greatest honour to take on the mantle of story-teller especially when it is done in gratitude. To follow God as story-teller is to turn from our small untethered non-sensical babble to become receivers of a deep abiding language.

I've titled this painting "What was it Like" but there is a sub-title tucked into this piece. Actually it's not so much tucked away as set free to wing its way across my watercolour paper. The bird bears a message and it is "God is Light". I wanted to somehow bring Hebrew lettering into the image. I am inspired by their story-telling and feel much affection for those ancestors who went before us deeply committed to passing on the word; where would we be without that first crack at understanding who we are in relation to the creator. We owe them so much. And so the squiggles you see scrawled on the bird is "LIGHT" in Hebrew.

The world of science baffles me and how Light works is no exception. The interplay between light and color is a complete mystery but I do know that when painters discovered light the world of art and image completely changed. I imagine that the moment in the story where "Let there be Light" was uttered, the universe also completely changed. Something was poured into this creation of ours, from the tiniest particle to the broad sweep of reality causing beauty and meaning to shimmer with luminescence. Much like the call from God, "sons, daughters – stand up, rise from the dust, live in the light and become makers of meaning, bearers of love and Logos", our lives, like the very structure of the universe, was intended to shine forth with beauty and illuminate. Let there be Light indeed.

I have always been drawn to mosaics especially when crafted from broken chards of pottery. What one person discards, another person comes along and spies beauty and form. We and the world around us, are those shards, broken and mislaid, lost in some landfill until we become part of a new work of art. Seems so contrary to our divine calling but maybe it's the muck of our lives that fills the cracks. These mucky lives of ours get mixed in with the cleansing waters of the spirit and we are held together by something much more binding, like a river forming a path which flows and surges and rushes towards the light. This is the place; the nooks and crannies where leaves break out and grow green, where birds find blue skies and where dismantled sorrowful lives get made right. These are stories worth telling.

When Cal, a friend, first looked at the picture, he said the dark hole reminded him of the tomb. Yes, I thought, that makes sense. At the tomb we find ourselves at an important juncture of the story. Once again we are reminded of that originating moment when a new "Logos" was uttered. Christ, who kept faith with the creator has continued the story, brought a richness to the plot through his suffering love. From this side of the tomb, the bird feathered by words of love is that Christ, bearing light in his cruciform life, breaking free from the black hole of death. My story never makes sense on its own. It's like one of those shards that hasn't found its way into God's mosaic. But once in place and once exposed to the light of love I am home, surrounded by other broken narratives on their way to becoming whole.

It's true, we are bombarded by many versions of what life is like and if we're honest we admit that some stories resonate and remind us of our true identity and others leave us cold. At the moment in the story when I feel lost and unhinged, it is the very point I find myself deeply grateful that I am not the ultimate keeper of the story. We have a creator that crafts our lives in a spirit of freedom, tweaking us here and there so that the mosaic that emerges captures both form and meaning. And when I forget this story of ours I have only to return to what has been handed down from the pages of past story-tellers. My image is a way of saying thank you for the sacred texts that have the power to ignite both faith and imagination and have this unfailing way of keeping the story alive and well.

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