Steve Wiens used to stutter; his words were garbled and stuck, lost inside of him. But he recently wrote Beginnings because there is a wild song that comes out of the deepest parts of him, a song about a God who is endlessly creating new life out of disastrous death, in you and me and everyone, everywhere. He hopes his words lead you to the God who loves you recklessly. It’s a grace to welcome Steve to the farm’s front porch today…
They were beautiful, and they covered the skies.
Eagles circled, mere specks in the blue expanse above.
Cicadas squeaked and chattered. Cardinals swooped low, showing off. A bluebird danced on the air, a blur of color and grace.
Imagine the sounds made by the birds in that garden.
Can you hear their song?
Growing up, my sisters and I routinely begged our parents to let us have birds as pets.
When my parents finally relented, we’d put these birds in small wire prisons in our house, where they’d rattle and squawk, looking pretty but anxious.
After approximately seven minutes, we’d grow bored of these beautiful birds, and they would sit in their cages, and we would go back to our lives. Eventually (and by eventually, I mean a few weeks later), they would die.
Birds, apparently, are not made for cages. Birds are meant to fly, to be beautiful, to be free.
Imagine a little girl in those first, magical generations, toes caked with the earth’s young mud, lying on her back, staring up at all that beauty, all of that soaring.
The tall grass brushes her arms as she runs across the golden fields, always keeping her eyes to the horizon, to where things soar.
Watch her scamper up that tree, leaning far over a large branch, legs wiggling.
See her spread her own wings.
In her dreams, she flies with them, high above her family, high above the trees under which she hid from her brother.
Watch her discover that robin’s nest, the hidden treasure of eggs gleaming like gold in the morning mist. Feel the rough bark on her bare feet, tough and callused.
Look up into that expanse with her and watch them soar, those birds.
Then watch as gravity and history pull her down that tree, even as she knows somewhere deep in her soul that she was also meant to fly, her heart escaping out of her chest in the sheer delight of being alive.
Watch her being caged. Watch her pretend her cage is her home.
Several years ago, as I was pulling out of the strip mall where I had just picked up pizza for dinner, I saw something that shocked me, in broad daylight. A man was leaning over a young girl, about three or four years old.
I assumed he was her father. I was in my car with my windows rolled down, and it took me a few seconds to register what was happening.
This father had grabbed a hold of the girl’s right arm with his left hand, and with his right hand, he was repeatedly striking her.
Her dark hair hung in loose ringlets, and she was wearing a yellow raincoat with black boots. She was not moving. Her head was down; I assume she was crying.
I do not remember what the father looked like. I just remember the sickening outrage I felt in the deep waters of my own psyche.
I had stopped my car and was staring. I had no idea what to do. Should I get out? What would I say? Should I call the police? Would they come in time? Was I really seeing this?
Before I knew what I was doing, I pulled away from that scene, away from that man with the voice that yelled and the hands that hit.
I didn’t say anything. I didn’t do anything. I just drove away.
Someday, that little girl who was pulled down into the dark, swirling waters of abuse will need to face what happened to her that day. And when that day comes, she’ll need all the help she can get.
On Day Five, you learn that you don’t stay up in the sky forever.
Sooner or later, the storm clouds gather, and before you know it, the expansive sky has turned into an ocean, and you’re treading water, terrified. It is in those waters that you meet what you fear most.
In the early days of the earth’s history, the sea represented evil. The tempestuous ocean was the symbol of everything dark and chaotic, spinning with an energy that couldn’t be controlled.
Early writings consistently depict those creatures that lurked in the deep as mysteries to be avoided, cursed.
There is a Hebrew word hidden in the verses that describe Day Five that is frightening. In some translations, it’s translated as “whales”; in others, it’s simply “creatures.” But the Hebrew word tanniyn is a masculine noun which means “dragon,” “serpent,” or “sea monster.” It can also mean “venomous snake.”
This word is only used twenty-eight times in the Bible, but there is always a sense of foreboding desolation and evil surrounding it.
Have you ever had to face a monster? What did it look like? Where was it lurking when you found it? What did it take to face it without getting taken under?
It rears up like a dragon the morning after the six-day binge that ended ten years of sobriety.
What started as a small whisper of shame is now is a deafening roar, a fire-baked oven of self-loathing. You’ll never change, you’re no good, you’ll lose everything and everyone, and you deserve to.
It accompanies you to the doctor as you deliver the baby you have miscarried, your third in as many years. It is eager to point out how defective you are, how you don’t deserve children.
It mocks you and saps your strength, leaving you stumbling around numb, or raging at anyone who will listen.
It sings to you from the kitchen, promising sweet relief from a chaotic day, in the form of food that you are not hungry for, but you need in order to stave off the anxiety. And when it goes in your mouth, you know it is the one thing that is for you, only for you; it doesn’t have to be shared.
The song turns into a mocking dirge as you find yourself on your knees in the bathroom once again, emptying out that relief where all the other waste goes.
And like those swirling waters, your anxiety keeps spinning and churning.
When you face your monster, the one that accuses you with the slimy voice of shame, the one that tempts you to arm yourself so that you are invincible, the God who created the birds in the sky and that which inhabits the deep waters is with you.
It’s time to face your monster.
His new book Beginnings: The First Seven Days of the Rest of Your Life is for everyone who faces significant transition―in career, in relationships, in life stage, whether good or bad. By exploring the first chapter in Genesis―day by day, creative act by creative act―Steve shows us how beginnings work, and how God works through our beginnings. I’ve been carrying this fascinating book around with me the last week — I think Beginnings could change the whole year.
[ Our humble thanks to Tyndale for their partnership in today’s devotion ]