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  • Writer's pictureAllison Wilcox

Hovering God

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. ~ Genesis 1:1-5

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (NIV)

First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss. (The Message)

I include these other two ways of reading the Genesis to add some visual imagery to this Genesis poem. In it, you can see how vast and perplexing and beautiful the words from scripture can be.

Looking especially at verse 2, we get in the NRSV that a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. In the NIV, that becomes the Spirit of God hovering over the waters. And in the Message, Eugene Peterson describes it as God's Spirit brooding like a bird over a watery abyss.

I think humans have done this passage from the Hebrew scriptures a great disservice by insisting to take these words in a modern day literal reading. So much is missed when that happens, including the gorgeous flow of the words and the vivid imagery we get of a God who "hovers" over creation like a bird looking for a place to land.

I love the NIV's translation here of hovering. I picture our God as one who hovers like a nervous mother watching her toddler take her first steps.

Genesis 1 is all about God. Sure, it gives an account of creation, but that account tells us more about God than it does the nuts and bolts (or how tos) of building a universe.

It tells us that even before there was anything but a void - a soup of nothingness - that God hovered like a parent, waiting, watching...getting ready...

Ready to create. Genesis 1 tells us that God is creative and clever.

When we insist on claiming Genesis 1 is an accurate representation of HOW the earth was created, we miss the important stuff: WHY the earth was created and what that creation tells us about the creator.

A creator who loved creation into existence.

Creator God, help me to see the whimsy and beauty and goodness of your creation. Amen

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