I saw a film the other night. The main character, a photographer, is out of work, out of cash, and out of love and everyone keeps telling him to cheer up because obviously this puts him at his creative peak.
And I guess it’s true—the creative peak is often a trough and the way to creativity goes down, down, down … and then down again. Like they say about Switzerland—all those years of peace, security, and wealth—and all it produced was the cuckoo clock.
Not even God gets away without downward mobility. Where does God have to go to get creative? Right down into nothing. If all this glorious world was created ex nihilo you’ve got to feel sorry for the God who risked becoming nothing to make nothing into something. And it must have been a risk. In the beginning was the word … but what if there’d been a cosmic case of writer’s block?
As it is, God’s choice of medium has been questionable and from the beginning the work has been wayward. Eating from the wrong tree. Inventing death. Exploring hate. Contriving ugliness.
But God seems not to learn. How does the Divine Potter control the wobble in clay? I’d opt for scraping it off the wheel and starting again. But God does the unimaginable and becomes part of the pot. God enters the weave. Joins the pigment on the brush.
Down, down, down. How far do you have to go? Only too far seems to be enough. God in Jesus, goes down, down, down, … and then down. Carries creation back down into nihil, into nothing, into death. Strung out on a dead tree a dead man. How do you get out of that one? You don’t. You just pray that God doesn’t have writer’s block. That God can still bring something out of nothing. That God will still take the risk. Of annihilation. Of failure.
In the film I saw, our hero tries to head uphill not down but only makes a fool of himself by chasing after the wrong guy, and has to lose him and let him go before he can do the impossible and make something beautiful out of nothing.
So, even our failures can be used for our salvation. Even our wounds can be used to heal us. But who wants to go there. Down, down, down. Even if God seems to be waiting for us there, in the failure, and in the wounds and on the cross. Ready to make the ugly beautiful, the empty rich, and the dead alive.
But how far do we have to go? Only too far seems to be enough.
September 14th, 2000