If you’re new to my blog, this one is the penultimate blog in a series which wraps up next Tuesday. Or maybe I will throw down a wrap up blog after that. Anyway, you can find the previous ones in the archives.
In the Void, also known as isolation, a desert or valley season, or dark night of the soul, God fuses things together while we’re in a time that feels like we can’t see an inch beyond our nose or get anything accomplished. My goal in the series is to hold out hope to those who feel lost in a confusing mess, whose life doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, who can’t figure out why they’re here, or just can’t seem to connect with God.
Fusion #14 is Man and Woman: Love for the garden. I wrote that phrase down ten years ago. Today my task is to figure out what the heck I meant back then, ’cause I don’t really remember.
The most core feature of our identity is our gender. When you were born, nobody said “It’s a baby!” Instead, they proclaimed your gender. “It’s a girl!” Megan and I deliberately did not get an ultrasound done during any of our pregnancies. We felt that one of the greatest surprises in life was the gender of a newborn. There wasn’t really cause to spend the money on an ultrasound, and we never had insurance that paid for it. But beyond that, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have wanted one anyway. Three boys and one girl later, all healthy, and five years later I’m still glad we kept this surprise for the day of birth.
Now without getting too deeply into issues of transgender or sexual preference, on which I am not an expert, I think it’s important to note that God’s very self transcends gender. God’s love extends to all people, no matter their identity or preference. So, from here on out, when I’m talking about man and woman, I really want to consider that as inclusive as the universe is vast. In God’s transcendent sexuality, God still gave us two primary genders as broad categories. The animal kingdom and plants, too, give us other reproductive models which are also glimpses into God’s gender. The Bible says that God made humanity in God’s image, but it does NOT say that plants or animals are completely unrepresentative of God’s image. God’s stamp is really on everything. In other words, I do not think the image of God rests exclusively on the genders and subsequent potential reproductive abilities of those genders as seen in a majority of humans.
I started the series by talking about Genesis 1:2, where the earth is formless and void, and the Spirit of God hovers over the water. This is pre-gender. Genesis 1:27 is the first time God is referred to with a pronoun (at least in English, I’m not a Hebrew scholar) “God created [Adam (a Hebrew collective word for “him”)] in his own image, in the image of God he created [Adam]; male and female he created them.” Sorry, at this point I’m confused about God’s gender. All I can say from this passage is that God transcends gender and humanity reflects God’s image.
Today a guy dropped by the house and I got to ask, “How’s the baby? Two months old now, right?” Seven weeks. “Uh, it’s a boy, right?” I said. I couldn’t remember his name, either, and the father reminded me, admitting he couldn’t remember all his own cousins’ kid’s names. I commented that it takes a while until they develop their personality and we begin to associate their name with who they are.
In the Void we cry out over and over again: “Who Am I? Who Are You?”
If we are in a place where we really question ourselves, our deepest identity, we may even wonder, “Am I a Man?” (Or am I a Muppet?) Seriously, after you read the rest of this blog, go watch that video. It’s awesome.
Our identity and personality is hog-tied into gender, but God doesn’t seem as concerned about that. God is happy. He blesses the people and gives them a garden. He doesn’t say “Now, guys, over here, and girls over in that line; guys on the green beans and ladies, you have the artichokes project.” He just points to the garden and says to be fruitful and multiply.
I want to comment at this point that if you’re really struggling with gender issues and not sure where you land, I don’t want to make light of that. It occurs to me as I write that perhaps the thing to do (this might be completely wrong, but seems like something Wendell Berry would say) whether your identity issues have to do with gender or anything else, maybe just go work in a garden for a couple years. Prune some fruit trees, weed a patch of asparagus (maybe pull up the asparagus while you’re at it), plant some carrots or pick some kale. Whether this will help you discover who you are or not, I don’t know, but I think God would be fine with it. There’s something carnal about working with plants and animals that appeals to our sense of identity as humans even before we concern ourselves with gender. This could be a horrible idea and I really don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m happy to be told that I have no idea what it’s like to grapple with gender questions. But I kind of like it, this idea of working in a garden, for people who are working at any sort of root identity issue.
So the point of the series is that while we’re in the Void, God is fusing something for later. We’re in a space that feels isolated, may even feel like we’re sort of floating, with nothing to ground our feet, and God is fusing male and female (at least in Godself) so that the garden can be tended. You could take this as an analogy to your inner spiritual garden, or to your marriage, children and family.
Ultimately, God is fusing gender in the Void, so that Adam (humanity) can be productive. It’s sort of weird, because in the creation story God seems to be separating the two basic aspects of God’s own gender-based nature, but I think there’s still a fusion happening there, not a separation. The fusion is a two-part productivity process. Basic chemistry. Diet Coke + Mentos = explosion. And I’m not saying women are for making babies, let me be clear about that. I’m saying men and women must work together to take care of the world, even on days when it seems like nothing’s growing at all. If we can find ways to begin to do that, we may find that other issues settle themselves in our hearts as we walk through that valley season into a place of productivity after the dry season.
I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of ways to take this idea, and probably a lot of ways you could put words in my mouth that aren’t accurate, so remember this: in the Void, I hold out hope to my friends. That’s it. That’s all this is about. Find hope in God that God knows what she is doing when she incubates a plan for your life, God knows what he is doing when he plants a seed of an idea in your mind, God knows how to harvest what you’re carrying in your heart; God can fuse that. Your gender is both very beautiful to God, yet irrelevant in some paradoxical way I’m not even going to try to explain, so long as you work the garden.