The Wind Swept Over the Water

One day in Spiritual Ecology we were learning about wind. 

As my colleague, the environmental scientist, was lecturing about the impact of wind on the environment and the ecosystems, I was fascinated. Picture it: She’s gesturing wildly before a projected image of the flow of wind around the planet, speaking passionately about the role of wind in the ecosystem:

Did you know the wind tends to move in the same directions across the planet? I didn’t. It’s called the Coriolis effect. Apparently I was supposed to have learned this in 6th grade. 

Here in California, winds come from the southwest. It’s a critical part of what makes our environment here what it is… often dry, temperate, home to redwoods and shrubs, coyotes and gophers. I knew about the significance of water to our climate, but not wind. The movement of the wind is critical to our ecosystems and, thus, to our survival. Indeed, in many cases, wind cancels or balances out the water. We can also deduce a lot of information about which animals and plants will thrive here — and which won’t — based on the movement of the wind. 

And all this talk about wind got my mind floating back to Genesis. Wind moving… wind sweeping… wind ___…. And my theological mind spoke up to say, “Hey! I’ve heard of wind moving before…” (cue immature jokes)

“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth— and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters—”

In my theological training, I was taught that the first “thing” that happens according to the first creation myth is that God speaks. “Let there be light.” My sweet brain that loves to think and articulate before anything else accepted this proposition easily. Of course it’s talking first. Words are everything. 

But take a close look at the whole text:

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth— and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters—

Then God said: Let there be light, and there was light. God saw that the light was good. God then separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” Evening came, and morning followed—the first day.

The wind! The wind is the first thing. 

Indeed, some translations look like this:

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”

Finally, our dear Message translation puts it:

“First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.”

The Message translation: Genesis 1: 2

Photo by Melanie Wupperman on

And so what? It’s got me thinking – perhaps All The Words are not always the most important thing. Perhaps the wordless movement of the Spirit is sometimes the primary thing. When I used to read this passage, I might cut directly to the speaking part and treat the movement over the water as preamble to the words. But maybe there is something of value in the stirring *before* the words. 

Rob Bell’s recent episode addressed this phenomenon when many of us are experiencing a re-making. As many of us emerge from strict pandemic observance, it is a new era. Rob articulates that sometimes during a re-making, we can feel it, but we can’t articulate it. We don’t even know the question. It’s a great listen. 

And it brings me back to the wind.

Perhaps there is something to the feeling before the words. There is a stirring before an articulation.

And so, this week—on my best days— you’ll find me devoting some time to wordlessness, feeling around in the non-head space, for stirrings. Maybe it’ll be a violent rush of wind like Pentecost. Maybe it’ll be a sheer silence like in Kings. I don’t know, and I’ll try my hardest not to control it. I just want to observe it. That’s it. No words til after…

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