Tuesday, October 24, 2006

God versus Nothingness

Oh, Maggie Dawn has recalled a quotation from Karl Barth that I love.
[God] knows the Nothingness. He knows that which he did not elect or will as the creator. He know Chaos and its terror. He knows its advantage over his creature. He knows how inevitably it imperils his creature. Yet he is Lord over that which imperils his creature. Against him, the Nothingness has no power of its own. And he has sworn faithfulness to his threatened creature...
He would rather let himself be injured and humiliated in making the assault and repulse of Nothingness his own concern than leave his creature alone in this affliction. He deploys all his glory in the work of his deepest condescension. He intervenes in the struggle between Nothingness and the creature as if he were not God but himself a weak and threatened and vulnerable creature…. This is how God himself comes on the scene. —Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics III/3, 358
I’ve been sick now since late August, and I’m not only getting tired of being sick and tired, I’m beginning to feel hopeless. Sunday was such a day. The Nothingness sucked me in. I couldn’t go to church, even though my favorite preacher and priest was there. I couldn’t enjoy food, even though the leftover cake was wonderful. My legs cramp when I lie down; so I couldn’t even sleep the day away. Plus, in mopping up cake crumbs, I slipped and did the splits for the first time in my life – thought I might rather die, couldn’t walk for a few minutes and still hurt some.

Now, I have words to express my feelings. I am a creature of God, and I know I am loved by God and by many humans. But, the Nothingness took over, and I was powerless. I felt trapped in a black hole where hope and love and kindness could not reach me. I was scared of facing the darkness and paralyzed to turn to the light.

Today I feel better. The soreness from my slip on the wet floor is almost gone. My cough is better. My energy level is better. My legs still ache, but I did get to rest on the bed for 20 minutes or so early this afternoon. And, it’s my birthday, 61 mostly delightful years.

God comforts me with the words of Karl Barth: that God has all power over the Nothingness, even when we humans do not. God intervenes in the struggle between the black holes of our lives and the light. When I could not lift myself, God did.

I want to examine this text a bit more because it implies that the crucifixion and resurrection are the ways that God demonstrates care for “his threatened creature.” And, I am not sure what I think about crucifixion and resurrection. I tend to be more of an incarnational believer – it was enough that God became human in the form of Jesus Christ, and the crucifixion and resurrection were a bit of overkill. But, this makes me wonder how rephrasing the passion and its purpose (not changing the purpose, but making it more understandable in my world) might change my belief a bit.

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