A Concave Indent
“A stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground – then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground.” – Genesis 2:6-7
Let’s suppose that all of us are made by God’s hands. Not just Adam, not just men, not just women, everyone. That might do violence to the text, but whatever, the text has done plenty of violence itself.
Imagine a lump of clay. God picks up it, envisions something wonderful and gets to work. She pulls arms and legs out from the middle and uses her little finger to form eye sockets. She gets lost in the project. And when what-will-be-you is almost done she holds it in her hands, admiring her artistry. The clay is drying. There’s not much time. God’s hold becomes an embrace. Her thumb presses against your chest, marking you with the imprint of your maker, even as you’re left with an absence at your center. Not a presence, not an inner light, but a concave indent. God pulls her hand away.
God lets us be, because she loves us. If God stayed as close as she was in the act of creation, we’d have no independent existence. And you can’t have relationship without differentiation. To paraphrase Gillian Rose, “God had to leave us, so that his love for us could breathe.”
So we feel God’s love. And we ache for his presence. We long for God. Everybody does. Some of us anesthetize the ache. Others deny it exists. Many people try to satisfy it by placing their faith in something tangible.
What does it mean to be a Christian in 2017? Do you have to swallow scripture? Do you have to throw shade at atheists? Do you have to spend your life searching for a cross to hang on?
I don’t know. All I know is that to become a Christian I had to admit this: the ache is real. It hurts. And I cannot satisfy it on my own.
Let my longing become prayer dear Lord. Answer it! Don’t leave me alone. Amen.
Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Pauls United Church of Christ in Chicago. He is the host of “Preachers on Preaching,” a weekly podcast sponsored by The Christian Century.