Calling Forth Life From the Deep While Standing on the SurfaceOn June 10, 2018 by Amy Burgin
When my oldest daughter fell into the deep abyss we call the “Junior Year of High School,” I freaked out. The workload was intense with multiple Advanced Placement courses and she became overwhelmed to the max. She slunk into the isolation of her bedroom often. Her straight A’s, turned to B’s, to C’s then dove all the way down to F’s. She lied about her homework, ate tons of bags of Movie Butter microwave popcorn and large bowls of ice cream every day. (She gave me permission to share this, because she’s cool like that!) She’s brilliant to the core in ways I never will be with the ability to understand difficult concepts quickly, to write thoughtful essays and stories, and to draw beautiful creatures and people straight out of her head. But she quit trying. She quit creating. She started overeating and avoiding family. My joyful, thoughtful, creative girl was drowning in the deep.
I dove in after her. I should probably state here: I don’t know how to dive. It would be better described as a crazed, frantic belly flop. Frantically searching through the dark, I yelled and screamed for her and her talents. This entailed grounding, yelling and confrontation. When I was a teenager, we might have called such a confrontation “an intervention.” Directly after, we think we’ve accomplished some great work as we come up out of the deep with murk on our sleeves and we might even wipe it on our cheeks for show and think we are tough. But in a few days, after another missed homework assignment, more bags of Movie Butter popcorn and more mounds of ice cream we find we’re still in the chaos and nothing lasting was accomplished by said intervention. I called it discipline and a mother’s duty at the time. But in the midst of knowing I had a duty, I also knew something was wrong in the way I was handling it. I couldn’t name it though. Looking back on it today while sitting in Genesis 1, I’m able to name my mistake.
In verse 2, God “was hovering over the waters.”
He spoke. He let. It was. He saw. He separated. He called.
He called forth life,
He didn’t panic. He didn’t dive into the deep – it was too small to contain him anyway.
Maybe it’s OK to stand on the surface of the deep.
God did it in the beginning.
It’s not my tendency.
I wish I had stayed on the surface myself.
I wish I would have hovered over the deep, stayed close and begun to call forth all the good things I knew were buried in the abyss.
Instead, I jumped in, flailed about and added to the existing chaos, which likely caused her and her gifts to dive in deeper.
The Lazarus story comes to mind. Not only did I belly-flop into the deep and nearly drown myself while going in after her, I began to search for all the maggots in the deep. I called them by name, “Lazy!” “Liar!” and began an attempt to snatch and squash them. It’s obvious this wild attempt only separated me from my daughter. I know I certainly withdraw from those who are vexed in spirit with wild yelling and snatching.
But Jesus didn’t enter the grave when he called Lazarus forth from the dead.
He didn’t need to go inside and get his sleeves dirty with the stench of death.
He didn’t need to pick off the worms and bugs that were by now feeding on the stinking corpse.
He didn’t need to call each maggot by name.
No, he stood in the light, at the surface of the tomb, and with the depth of his voice he called out into the deep.
Deep calls to deep.
In Genesis, he hovers, broods on the surface, caring for the potential he sees in the abyss. Panic is not in the picture. He knows what life he wishes to call forth from the deep. He calls it forth. And it is good.
This picture is important to me as a mother, a wife and a friend. When I see talent and goodness and life seemingly lost in the formless chaos of the deep abyss, I don’t have to freak out and dive in to salvage it. I can stand on the surface next to God, mimic his call and witness in amazement as talent, goodness and life come alive before my eyes.
My daughter recently created a scrapbook and included a page describing her high school years. Her description of Junior Year is indicative of my freak-out and I thought you might enjoy taking a peek. She nailed my response to Junior Year with the words “my parents raged in their increasing panic.”
This scrapbook is currently my favorite book.
Lord, we love you.
You can dive into the deep if you want to. Sometimes you do. You did it on the cross. It couldn’t contain you. It swallows me up in a single gulp without you.
You’ve done more than we can know.
I love that you don’t panic when faced with chaos. I’ve never known you to panic.
And I love learning that you sometimes stand on the surface.
Brooding like a mother hen over the life you see in the deep, in the chaos.
Can I stand with you there today?
Can I mimic your calling forth of life and watch it surface with you? Help me hear your call that I might mimic you well and sing along.
Deep calls to deep. I love our duet.