“In the beginning”: when poetic truth meets scientific conjecture

I have a lovely little sewn-binding book about space that starts like this:

“In the beginning, say most scientists, there was nothing. Then about 15 billion years ago, the universe – the Earth, Sun, Moon, and all the planets, stars and galaxies – came into existence in a cataclysmic fireball known as the Big Bang. The universe has been expanding from that moment, pushing against the inexorable pull of gravity which may one day lead to the Big Crunch.”

Since I wasn’t there 15 billion years ago when (say most scientists) the cataclysmic fireball resulted in the Earth, Sun, Moon, and all the planets, stars, and galaxies, I can’t speak to the factuality of these lines. It might be worth noting that pages 56 and 57 discuss Pluto, “a little planet we still know relatively little about” (wrote the authors in 2000) and which we now know is not a legitimate planet at all (based on a scientifically democratic, or maybe a democratically scientific, vote) but is instead a mere plutoid (according to scientists who can now definitively state that there are absolutely only 8 planets, no matter what anyone said before).

Aside from the fact that planetary “facts” have changed in the 12 years since the book was first published – which might call into question the very definition of “fact” – I have little to offer by way of scientific reader-response to the opening In the beginning lines. I’m not a scientist. I do know some scientists, and I could ask them whether my lovely little sewn-binding book about space starts out factually sound, but I’m not sure that’s really the point.

The point is that, poetically speaking, the opening lines of the book are atrocious.  Big Bangcataclysmic fireballthe inexorable pull of gravity – it’s enough to make any writing instructor curl up into a tightly wound fetal ball, reduced to meaningless simpering. And just in case she hasn’t quite toppled over the hypothetical edge of literary sanity, there is the equally hypothetical impending Big Crunch. You know. Like the Big Bang. But not alliterative. Please excuse the writing instructor while she chews on glass and pierces her eyes with a fork.

Maybe the authors of the space book wanted to draw on the emotional sensibilities of the reader – certainly the inexorable pull of gravity is not a strictly scientific phrase. Maybe they wanted to take a gentle (or not) swing at another poetic account of the Earth, Sun, Moon, and all the planets, stars, and galaxies, an account that begins with the same three words.  Sadly, they fail in poetry by their own hyperbolic clunkiness. Ironically, they fail in science (present Plutoidian science, at least) by, of all things, the advancement of science itself. What was a definitive fact just a few short years ago is, alas, no longer factual.

If someone is interested in the poetic beginning of all things – and since none of us was actually there, the poetic beginning is the only beginning we really have – might I suggest these lines instead, also taken from a lovely little sewn-binding book, and which are quite obviously the lines upon which the space book is patterned :

“In the beginning,
God created the heavens and the earth.
Now the earth was formless and empty,
and darkness covered the surface of the watery depths,
and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.
Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.
God saw that the light was good.
Then He separated the light from the darkness.
God called the light ‘day’ and He called the darkness ‘night.’
Evening came, and then morning: the first day.”

It seems to me that when poetry tries to be science or science tries to be poetry, we run into all kinds of problems. The theologians who insist that the first day definitively, factually, unequivocally, and absolutely equates to a passage of 24 hours are on no more solid ground than the scientists who poeticize the nothingness of eons ago into a non-deistic cataclysmic fireball. Similarly, the scientists who insist that a spontaneous and purposeless big bang is more likely and believable than God’s voice are treading in dangerous waters.

There are solidly scientific reasons to believe that the earth is very, very, very old. There are solidly sensible reasons to believe that God – powerful, creative, intentional, and knowable – was the intelligent and powerful source of all creation. These two things are not mutually exclusive. Science and truth can co-exist. Though science can reasonably theorize about the when of the beginning, it cannot speak at all about the who or why.

When science has faded away – perhaps in the Big Crunch it so boldly predicts, perhaps in some kind of Plutoidian consensus – truth will still be ever-present, just as powerful, creative, intentional, and knowable as always. At that point, facts and data will cease to exist, swallowed up in the expansively elegant truth known as Love. Can I prove it? Of course not. Can I know it? Absolutely. For though it may not be measurable, Truth is indeed knowable.

Of God’s deep love and dew-dropped webs

A drop of grace, a strand of love (Photo: CKirgiss)
A drop of grace, a strand of love (Photo: CKirgiss)

When broken anger rages in your heart –

when empty pain presses on your soul –

when bitter shame surges through your mind –

then (and every other “when”) you must stop and breathe and listen, because God is there, quietly and firmly cradling both the universe and you.

In the overwhelming flood of fear and the tangled web of worry there is (indeed) a cleansing drop of grace resting on a delicate strand of love, if only you will look carefully and listen closely.

Do you see? Can you hear? It is saying this:

“Hush, child. No murmurs now. Listen for a moment ( or ten or a thousand) in silence. Listen to My voice – the whisper of truth, the breath of love, the wind of peace. Be still and know. Behold and believe.

Believe that I designed you, then knit you together in the depths of love. Believe that I formed you from the source of life, then brought you into being. Believe that you are meant to be.

I have heard your cries for help. I have rescued you from the pit. I have redeemed you for new life.

I Am. I Am your healer. I Am your savior. I Am your rock. I Am your refuge. I Am your supply. I Am.

I Am the Lord your God. I Am your Abba, Father. There is none other. I alone Am the creator and sustainer of all the exists. Of you.

If you seek to follow other gods, you will be disappointed and discouraged – they are not me.

If you strive to live for yourself, you will be empty and alone – you are not me.

I generously offer undeserved grace within unmeasured love – you may have all of Me.

I jealously desire an undivided heart within a humbled soul – I do want all of you.

When I look at you, I am silenced. I am moved beyond expression. I am amazed and filled with wonder.

I spun the sun. I spoke the moon. I placed the stars. I breathed the universe. And it is good. Indeed it is.

But you – you – are a wonder to me. You are my child. My beloved. My own. More breathtaking than all of creation.

Feel my holy embrace. Trust my joyful presence. Taste my whispered love. Drink my gentle grace. Hear my sacred voice. And believe these words I speak:

You take my breath away.”

Did you hear? Did you taste? Did you see? Do you know? All is changed for one who believes that you take God’s breath away.


Copyright Crystal Kirgiss 2013





Home-away-from-home sweet home (Michindoh Post 7)

[This post is seventh of a series in which I reflect on spending a month at camp for Wyldlife (middle schoolers) and YoungLives (teen moms). You can follow by subscribing to this blog below. All posts are categorized as ‘Michindoh 2013’.]

Going to camp for a month is no small thing. Besides all the packing for the destination stay, there’s all the preparation for the departure site. Read: who will take care of things at home while we are gone? And by “things” I mean the lawn and the dog, neither of which is self-sufficient or hibernatorial. In 20+ years of fairly consistent camp assignments, neither the lawn nor the various dogs have ever been left unattended. I consider this fact to fall somewhere on the miraculous end of the camp prep scale.

One of the blessings of camp life is leaving the things of home back home where they belong.

One of the challenges of camp life is feeling at home when not really at home.

There are several possible ways to accomplish this, some of which are beyond foolish (we’ll just skip over those, shall we?), and others that are tried and true.

1. Avoid the sleeping-on-a-lumpy-mountain-top syndrome, or conversely the sleeping-on-a-lumpy-but-flat-inner-tube debacle by bringing your own pillow. Or two or three.

2. Avoid the what-exactly-is-scrunched-around-my-neck-and-face nightly worries by bringing your own blanket. Or two or three.

3. Bring craft materials. Lots of it. Because there will probably be some six-year-old girls at camp who will require a special diet of sidewalk chalk, glitter, markers, glue, and various doodads. In large daily doses.

4. Bring books. Lots of them. Because there will probably be some . . . oh, let’s just be honest. Because you can’t leave home without them. And by “them” I mean ten. Or maybe twenty. Or more.

5. Find the nearest thrift store and buy a $1.99 string of gigantic illuminated Christmas stars to drape across the front of your camp abode. (Also: probably buy some more books.) Nothing screams sophisticated and classy like a $1.99 string of gigantic illuminated Christmas stars. That blink.

Christmas Stars in June (Photo: CKirgiss)
Christmas Stars in June (Photo: CKirgiss)

The stars are really the icing on the creating-a-home-away-from-home-sweet-home cake.

More importantly, they are a reminder that we serve the one true God who, at the beginning of all things, spoke the stars into existence, stars that are counted and named.

They are a reminder that we hope kids meet the Creator who laid the foundations of the world while the morning stars sang together and the angels shouted for joy.

They are a reminder that we follow the only fully human/fully divine Messiah whose birth was announced to shepherds and kings alike by a brilliant star.

They are a reminder that we are very small – much smaller than a single real star of the universe – but are still beloved by the Almighty God.

When I  gaze at the night sky – the moon and stars that You lovingly made and placed and named – I can only cry out: “What are we, Lord, that You would consider us worthy of even one short moment of Your love and attention? Who am I, Lord, that You would become a helpless babe in order to rescue and rebirth me?”

My home-away-from-home sweet home blinking stars are tacky beyond words.

But they are also quirky and delightful and joyful beyond words.

They make me smile, even as they help me remember Who we love and why we are here.