Genesis 1 is an incredibly beautiful story of origins open to readings at many levels. What I offer here is a ‘spiritual reading’, one which sees in these verses a metaphor for the emergence of something new in our lives. This Scripture anchors me and gives me courage in those periods of change when I struggle to trust God with the process, when I am ‘on the way to something unknown, something new’ and I have to ‘accept the anxiety of feeling myself in suspense and incomplete’. As those quotes from Teilhard de Chardin suggest, this reflection arises out of reading Genesis 1 in light of his thought, and particularly his exhortation to trust in the slow work of God This was originally penned as a meditative reflection for a community process of listening to the Spirit, but it could equally be used for individual reflection.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1)
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18)
Do we have an inkling of the new thing that God is doing? Sometimes it is easier to see an ending than to perceive a beginning, but every ending is also a beginning of something new. Which ‘world’ is ending? Where are we straining to glimpse the new beginning?
The earth was formless and void, and darkness was upon the face of the Deep and the Spirit of God was brooding over the waters (Gen 1:2)
God is present in the deep darkness that swaddles the waters enveloping the New, womblike. God is present in the formlessness that looks like chaos, about to speak something new into being.
And God said, “Let there be light” (Gen 1:3)
The moment(s) of insight. The ‘aha!’ We awaken, become aware. Light dawns for us.
And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day. (Gen 1:5)
The work of God in our lives begins in the darkness, the unconscious. We do not create it ourselves. We awaken to it in the morning, and then participate.
And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water” (Gen 1:6)
The New that God is bringing about needs space to happen. What might those spaces be? Internal silences? Times and spaces to listen together? Pausing in our activities? An illness?
And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” (Gen 1:9)
The time comes when the watery confusion is contained so that we can see our ‘place to stand’. The New that is emerging becomes visible to us.
And it was so …. And God saw that it was good. (Gen 1 passim)
This is God’s work. We can trust God with the process.
And God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it …” (Gen 1:11)
Now that the New which God brings into being has taken shape, we begin to experience it as life-giving, generative, full of vitality.
And there was evening and there was morning …. (Gen 1 passim)
Now that we have found our footing, and newness of life, we may be tempted to want to ‘run with it’. But we’ve still only glimpsed a part of what God is doing. Life and newness still begins in the darkness, and we awaken to it.
And God said, “Let there be luminaries in the expanse of the sky, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years.” (Gen 1:14)
The insights that have been gained from the consciousness emerging for this new life become more regularised. Our calendar and daily schedules, the rituals and activities that embody the insights and make them part of our everyday life, now take shape.
And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” (Gen 1:20)
The birds – often symbols of our connection with God, of spirituality and transcendence – inhabit the spaces in which the New was first enabled to take shape. The unconscious (the sea) still nourishes us too, with its ‘creatures’ – dream images and intuitions which keep us in balance.
God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number …” (Gen 1:22)
God blesses with abundance and fruitfulness. Life begets life.
And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds” (Gen 1:24)
The New generates more newness. It is bursting with life and vitality and great variety.
And God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, according to our likeness.” (Gen 1:26)
Life in the Newness which God brings about is humanizing life – life which leads us to be more fully human, to more perfectly reflect God’s image, to move closer to the Omega point where God is all in all. It creates the context for the full flourishing of our humanity.
And God saw all that God had made, and it was very good. (Gen 1:31)
Praise God for what God is doing, even though we may still have no idea what the glorious New will ultimately be. Trust God with the process.
And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it (Gen 2:3)
All of this creative process serves the same purpose – every ‘new thing’ that God does is to draw God’s creation into deeper communion with God.