God of Nothing

Vase FacesDuring a Sunday service my pastor asked the congregation for our images of God. What people shared—God as the sound of children laughing; God as prairie; God as executive assistant—filled me with hope. Holiness is abundant, emerging in and through creation, and can be encountered in the smallest of ordinary moments. I too have known God as the breadth of the Hudson River, its salt water pushing against the fresh water flow, its expanse my wide margin, its current my clear direction. I’ve known God in the indiscriminate attraction of my bisexual body. I’ve experienced God in the joy of a climate march and a Black Lives Matter protest and in a community’s story-telling at a beloved member’s funeral.

But had my pastor confronted me yesterday, had she held the microphone to my face and waited for me to muster up my courage, I would have said God is emptiness. I kneel these days before the God of nothing. It’s not that the rest isn’t also true—I still know God when Gwyn clomps down the stairs first thing in the morning and falls into my warm lap—but my primary experience of divinity is its absence, an emptiness at the margins of consciousness, the silence I can’t comprehend and can barely hear, the unknown place where I disappear and vast nothingness takes my place.

Had she waited, I probably couldn’t have said anything—for lack of words more than courage. I barely know how to talk about this. I’m reminded of those vase faces we drew in art class where you saw a vase in the positive space and two faces gazing at each other in the negative. It’s all holy. But these days I see but can’t sense the vase. Instead I’m out in the black margins, gazing across white space to a black and fathomless face, and stammering when I try to describe it.

Or maybe I would have told my pastor that my God is a dark cavern, as vast as our universe and as dark and empty as space, so big that what God isn’t is also what God is, so unknowable that what we can’t say is more God than what we can. I feel like I’ve lost my faith when really I’m falling into it, backward and blind. Nothing will catch me, thank God.                                                                        –Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew


In May I had the honor of participating in the Twin Cities Listen To Your Mother show (which I highly recommend trying out for).  For those who missed the reading and are interested in hearing how I became one of my daughter’s three mothers, here’s the video.

This fall I’ll be launching a new experiment at Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality–a Saturday introduction to spiritual memoir followed by monthly writing sessions.  For those of you interested in exploring the Spirit’s movement through your life, this will provide inspiration and ongoing support.

And if you want to dip into the revolutionary, revelatory work of revision, join me at The Loft on October 31 for Revision Revolution!

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