By Eugene C. Scott
God must not have studied grammar under the same crotchety English teachers I did. Over and over, in the beginning chapter of Genesis, God starts sentences with the Hebrew character Waw, or in this context the word and.
I imagine God standing at the blackboard, in a Far Side-like scene, writing one hundred times, “Never begin a sentence with and.”
Too often, however, our rules, of grammar and life, don’t reflect reality.
And so it is with Genesis chapter one. Some may not consider those sentences grammatically correct, but they are theologically correct. Through the repeated use of the conjunction and, we hear the movement of God. Like waves rolling onto the beach, they push us deeper into the reality of God’s continued action in our world. Listen to the rhythm.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth . . . darkness was over the surface of the deep. . . .
“And God said, ‘Let there be light. . . .’
“And God said, ‘Let the water teem with living creatures. . . .’
“And God said, ‘Let the land produce living creatures. . . .’
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”
Any other conjunction, but, then, so, etc., would not deliver the same seamless message. There is darkness and light, water and life. There is life, and it is very good! Life seems to turn on little things, like the use of a small word. There is pain and there is hope. In other words, hope often comes in conjunction with pain, if we let God finish the sentence.
For example, Dee Dee (my wife) and I lost the last of our parents in the last few years. I’m surprised still how often and deeply the hurt resurfaces. I see my mom’s face in every lovely elderly woman. I hear my father-in-law’s laugh the strangest of times. And–God is walking with us through the long grief. Now we often laugh and cry when we think of our parents.
With one little word and one mighty sweep of his hand, God draws the sting out of even death. God is the conjunction between suffering and hope.
Compare these sentences. Your cancer is progressing but treatment may help. Your cancer is progressing and God is with you and God cares and God holds the keys to life and death. Do you hear the rhythm? For me, this insignificant word and makes all the difference in the world. When I read Genesis one, I don’t see a God of the past. I see a God of the continual present, a God who can take one thing and sculpt it into something new. God grabs today and turns it into tomorrow.
I’m not playing semantics here. God can replace fear with faith, ashes with beauty, brokenness with healing, and scars with strength. I have seen God do just that in my life and the lives of those I work with. But we must allow God to connect the dots. Denying or avoiding either side of the equation (pain or hope) confuses our emotions and inside we bind up like fishing line tangled in on itself. Eventually the whole mess must be cut out and we have to start from scratch. Denying the pain builds scar tissue too deep to penetrate. Ignoring hope drowns us in a pool of hopelessness. Letting God connect the two transforms tough moments in our lives into monuments of faith.
God is the author and finisher of our lives. And that makes God the conjunction between suffering and hope, life and death, today and tomorrow, and heaven and earth. God began writing the prose of your life. Even when suffering over comes you, let God finish the story.
And in God’s words it will be good.
Eugene C. Scott is a husband and father and grandfather and co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church and a writer and a bow hunter but not a grammarian.