The Hovering

It’s been a stretch of formlessness creatively, waiting for change to spark.  More creative input than output.   After writing about and for change, it’s been good to drop the agenda and just breathe.

It could seem empty unless I close my eyes and see the change already at work, hovering over the waters.

Inhale, exhale.

Every creative year has a winter season to draw inside of, stretching out on the hearth of weekends at home.

But meanwhile I’ve been storing up, recharging, reading, refilling.  I went downtown to the women’s rally to listen and register my presence. I set aside MLK day, dressed, and drove, but the march was cancelled, and I was called away last minute anyway.  I served penance by reading Bryan Stevenson’s disturbingly truthful book, Just Mercy.  I devoured Susan Cottrell’s Radically Included, showing the weight of scripture on the side of love and inclusion.  I heard Rob Bell and his better half Peter Rollins give a talk downtown on their Holy Shift tour.  I read the 50 chapters of Genesis in large chunks, jotting questions and criticism in the margins.  I saw Jose Gonzalez in nearly total darkness singing his classical guitar to life with songs from his Vestiges and Claws album.

Reconnecting with friends and nature and taking life in – it’s been a time to breathe and be free from the self-imposed pressure of producing.   It’s not just recharging the batteries, it’s rubbing an eraser on the copper contacts and checking their flexibility to connect to new things.

During this time, I also attended a church service on racial reconciliation that shocked me when its repentant tone revealed a new posture of listening.  Straying from previous formulas, a new approach was taken with new voices being heard.  Change.  A part of my heart was healed when I saw leaders listening to young female and male voices of color, asking about their experience, reading up on Civil Rights history, and finishing with the confession, “How could I have not known this before?”  It’s a question I have had to ask my straight white male self a lot.

The service gave me hope that change is possible, but also that we are not always in control of it.  In Judeo-Christian terms this changing work is often ascribed to the “Spirit” – and this word has well-filled the gap between what I can explain and what I cannot.  We do our work, but sometimes it requires more than our work.

When I have changed through moments of tears or seasons of healing, I close my eyes and see the Spirit hovering over the waters, patiently shining light into the darkness of the deep, waiting for the moment of change.  And there are many:  a loss being grieved, rich times of community over a meal at our home table, the freshness of life sucking in first breaths, taking the bread and wine together in worship, summer light across the ocean – all form something from emptiness, in a way that does not add up given only the visible ingredients: 

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.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Change has been a persistent theme.  I was writing about change but also in orderto change, to understand what I needed to leave behind. Perhaps I also fancied that by putting the right words together in the right order, I could trigger change in others.  But while there is a lot I can do to change myself, I cannot much force change in others.  I only have power over visible ingredients, but true transformations seem to require something more.

For those of you wanting, waiting, and working for change, remember this.  Your vision of community may not have arrived, but the Spirit is hovering.  And as you work, She is working in you, just as in me.  It’s normal to feel alone because the hovering is often invisible, working in the darkness.

I have to admit something:  While I was overjoyed to see the transformation in that reconciliation service, I later lamented that I had not done more to bring it about.  For a cause so rooted in my heart, I had not spoken up enough about it.  But wasn’t I supposed to care more that the change came, than whether I was a part of it?

Pride: I’m too scared to speak up first, but too competitive to accept being second.

Mercifully, a friend pointed me beyond myself: the change that triggered both joy and lament in me – that change was evidence of something more hovering over the surface, not something I could have accomplished with any amount of speaking out.

We can feel alone because our transformation timelines do not always line up.  Artists are people who generously communicate their transformation so we would know that we are not alone.  These have meant the world to me.  Very often Artists do feel alone but find the guts to share it anyway (think Van Gogh’s colorful, emotion-filled work).

We need to be Artists to each other, taking the risk to tell others about our depths.  Yet this story of Genesis-beginnings, hauntingly portrays something more:  We are not alone in our efforts to change. 

Read it again:  even in the depth of our darkness, there is a hovering over us, waiting for the time to be right for change:

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.

(wait for it)

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

♦ weekendswell ♦

This post is also available on Medium
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7 Replies to “The Hovering”

    1. Me too. I can let go of my efforts knowing they are not the only thing at work. funny how the self-reliant, hard-working legalism from our past, can become equally self-reliant and hard-working in efforts to lose it.


  1. Dan. My bells are going off. Todd’s too. I simply thoroughly enjoy your posts. I don’t understand why you don’t have more followers than Oprah. That is not a pride statement. I had a art quote come up on my ever so profound Pinterest the other day. “Stop trying to create a thing instead create an experience.” I think you are.


    1. Thank you. That is a good quote. I fight thinking i need to create a thing and then write, when I could focus instead on writing about the process along the way. Thanks for your support and LMK if you get a chance to tell Oprah about it.


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