i wrote an article for today’s Age, which someone told me was online but i can’t find it. i’ll paste it below. It’s a faith column about the event of god, provoked by a trip to Tassie with Jonny and Andrew.
jonny took this photo of the moment. it says it all better than the article.
Our plane was two hours late into Hobart, so we arrived at the top of Mt Wellington in the late afternoon. There aren’t trees at the top of the mountain, and we’d come from winter sunshine in the city, so we were completely unprepared for the force of the wind and the cold that battered us as we got out of the car. It was hard to breathe, and we had to fight to stand upright. We were surrounded by barren earth and hard rocks, cast in sharp relief by the eerie glow from the setting sun. My friend said it was like we’d been transported beyond the apocalypse. The starkness made me think we’d been taken back to the beginning of the world; bleak and barren, harsh and cold, breath-less, light-less, life-less.
Stories about the beginning of the world are problematic for many people of faith. It took me many years to discover that most scholars believe the Bible is a collection of stories and writings gathered throughout history, many of which come from very different traditions. When we peel back the dominant voices of tradition that have told us what interpretation we should give to those stories, a different way of understanding God emerges. For example, most people read the first biblical story of creation, assuming it describes an all-powerful God, who creates the world out of nothing. But there’s another way of reading that story: the earth, wind and water already make up the world’s barren and desolate landscape, and then something happens to transform them. God isn’t the maker of all that exists, but the prayer by which what already exists is brought to life. God isn’t in control of the world, God is the possibility of life within the world.
Letting go of the belief that God is all-powerful is pretty risky. There is no certainty at the end of this faith, no assuredness of a happy ending, and no tidy resolution. While it’s a real comfort to believe God might intervene to save us when it all goes horribly wrong, I simply don’t believe God can. God is simply and only the breath of life, the birth of hope, the unexpected genesis of love. There is no fall back plan, no possibility of rescue when it all goes wrong – even though it makes this life impossibly unsure and terrifyingly uncertain. There are those who say this makes God very small, but it only seems that way to those who haven’t experienced the extraordinary gift of life, where it didn’t exist before. Don’t underestimate the faith it takes to believe only in a fragile event.
‘Let there be light’, came the voice at life’s beginning, when all the world was darkness. Perhaps it was more a plea than a command; a longing, a prayer. But it’s enough to give me courage to join my longing to God’s: let there be light in the bleakness of the world. Even when I don’t believe it, and especially in those moments when I can’t, may light still come. Let all that is barren be brought to life.