Thursday, November 11, 2010

Holding Back Chaos

If my husband stays up much later than I do, a predictable thing happens: I inevitably drift over to his side of the bed. So when he gets in, he has to make his body into a kind of battering ram that pushes me back to my side of the bed. And while he may think of this as an example of me being a bed hog, I think it has much to say about the theology of creation.

There are so many parts of the Genesis 1 story that involve setting boundaries and limits: the light is separated from the darkness, the vault of the sky is defined over the chaos of the water, the sea is held back from the land, the day and night are named as distinct.

In a simple way, my husband’s presence in bed is a limit that says, “You will go no further.” When he is not there, I wonder if the night went on long enough whether I’d simply drop off the other side of the bed. But when he is there, I know where the bed ends and that I am safe from the drop on the far side. My own side of the bed I know instinctively; it’s that other, far-off edge that represents the unknown, the fearful limits of what I don’t understand.

Oftentimes I wish for some dramatic re-creation moment in my life: for new ground to appear out of endless seas, for light to push back a long darkness, for the naming of order out of chaos. But time and time again, those order-making moments don’t happen, even when they are needed most.

What I have instead is a kind of wall that keeps me from going over the edge—a tenuous wall made by intangible things such as the faithful constancy of a communion of friends, the perfect resonance of songs sung into the night, and the quiet certitude of the sun setting to end each day. It’s not much to hold on to when you add those things up, but somehow it’s enough to keep the chaos at bay and hold me back from going over the edge.