Living through genesis

The story of creation. m kasahara/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Early in my maternity leave, my dear church friend Kathleen stopped by for a porch visit with me and the baby. As is our wont, our conversation quickly turned deep as we discussed loss, grief, change, opportunity, creation ... you know, the light stuff.

Creation in particular is a favorite topic of mine and Kathleen's. We are art-enlivened ponderers, and we express ourselves most fully through words. So it was completely in character when, after I'd updated her on my latest fallow writing period and small but insistent steps forward with querying my prayer book manuscript, Kathleen said to me, "You have produced a baby and a book. Truly, you are living through genesis."

Living through genesis. Kathleen's poetic phrase captured the liminality of gestation, the long period between conception and birth for both humans and art, the space where risk and potential and discovery combine to startling effect. Living through genesis means trusting that seeds you have planted will bear fruit, even if in ways and at times you can't predict.

This past month, seeds I planted 10+ years when I started this blog blossomed into the fulfillment of a long-held dream: to publish a book. As dedicated readers know, online I write monthly meditations centered around young adult spirituality; offline, I have been shaping this raw material into a manuscript intended for fellow seekers. Now that manuscript will become a book in 2022 courtesy of Lake Drive Books, a new publisher that seeks to "inspire your religious imagination."

As with parenting, I've poured endless dreams, hopes, blood, sweat, tears, and "what the hell am I doing?" moments into writing (though I will forever maintain that producing an infant is a shorter and more efficient process than producing a book). Our popular conception is that genesis isn't so incremental; the narrative centers a lone spark of genius rather than creative accumulation. But really, beyond the Big Bang, hasn't creation itself unfolded in its own sweet time? Why would our wild, boundless dreaming be any different?

It's as writer Elizabeth Gilbert said in a recent On Being episode, The Future of Hope 3: "I think that there are only two things that I’ve been made aware of in the universe that are possibly infinite, and one is the universe itself, and the other is human imagination." I create in order to discover what creation will birth in me; in this way, genesis begets genesis.

As I look ahead to my next phase of the publishing journey, I find myself asking similar questions as when I was poised to become a mother for the first time:

Do I choose and invite the joy that longs to fill me? Have I left room for rampant delight to trample illusory control? In short, am I remaining open to the wonder of it all—the beauty, the discovery, the pain, the enchantment, the enormity and impossibility of life itself?

Today I recognize these as the questions of someone for whom creation equals meaning. I never know what the answers will be or when they will come, but I do know they are sometimes the least interesting part of the equation. To craft the question, to pursue the process, to envision the result ... here is where the real birth takes place, of art and soul alike.


Prayer #372: Vision Realized (see Prayer #226 and Prayer #294)

You are living the vision I planted in your heart, and your awe overwhelms you.

Your two minds on the matter—doubt that the vision could materialize, conviction that it would—have receded in favor of pure gratitude. Gratitude for endurance and patience, doggedness and dumb luck, constraints and inspiration. Gratitude for all the support you've received and time you've invested. Gratitude for belief in yourself, in me, and in our unfolding vision.

This I promise you: As much as you are celebrating right now, I am celebrating you a hundredfold. I have always celebrated you, in fact, because I love you for who you are, not what you do.

Yes, you have coaxed a conflagration from a single spark, a feat worthy of appreciation. But the true miracle is you witnessing your own formation as it happens. Rejoice in this gift, and see what new vision it creates.