O Lord, you are my Lord and my God, and I have never seen you. You have made and remade me and bestowed on me all the good that I possess. (St. Anselm, Proslogion)
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light. (John 1:5; context)
This Lent, we are exploring our faith by running through the alphabet. Today, “N” is for Nothing. Think of “nothing” as two words: no-thing and you’re close to the understanding of evil that I’ll go into in a moment. First, the Gospel according to John uses the imagery of darkness and light to delineate between the creative force of God (the light) and the nebulous other that in some sense contests with God (darkness).
God’s creative force is the light that shines in the darkness. The darkness cannot comprehend or overcome or extinguish the light because the darkness has never been a part of creation. The darkness is just the absence of any created thing. This is a tricky concept, so let’s get back to our word for today: no-thing.
But first a side note: the darkness that cannot overcome the light is wholly different from the darkness of night. (Remember that God created darkness and light and separated them.) However, “night” and “darkness” are useful metaphors for speaking about that which is outside creation.
And we’re back. Okay, so the great German theologian Karl Barth posited that all this stuff outside of creation is where evil comes from. He said that Evil is everything that God didn’t create, and all that uncreatedness is pushing on or sucking on creation. When I sin (seek my own will rather than God’s will), I distort my relationship with God. This distortion is the pull that non-creation has on me. If you ever define a word as “the absence of” something else, then you are close to this idea. For example, despair is the absence of hope. Remember “The Nothing” in the movie The NeverEnding Story? That villain is as close to a visual example as I can come up with.
I know this is a zany understanding of evil, and we would need a whole lot more space to really talk about it, but I think it’s worth a bit of thought. If you ever felt like something you were doing was “un-making you,” then you were feeling the pull of non-creation, non-being, annihilation. The good news is this: while the “Nothing” of evil tries jealously to unmake created things, it will ultimately fail to triumph because God never stops creating or calling creation to God.
Dear God, you are the creative force that calls all people to your light. Help me to orient myself towards you, and away from the forces of darkness that pull me from you. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.
I leave this moment with you, God, grateful for the word that you speak daily into my soul, the word that continues to create me and helps me to grow.
2 thoughts on ““N” is for Nothing (March 4, 2013)”
This was a very good devotional. Keep up the great work. I look forward to your Christ exalting devotionals daily. Take care and God bless.
Fr. Adam, have you read the Harry Potter books? Remember the Dementors? Shadowy creatures that suck all thought, all happiness, out of others, they are accompanied by cold–the absence of heat. One can escape the Dementors only by calling a personal Patronus, a being of light.
This passage seems to illustrate: the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it.
As the Patronus appears, the Dementors slowly, slink away.
There are Demntors in real life: fatigue, bad news, difficult people…
In our family, Dark Chocolate is called anti-dementor medicine. Of course, DC is a temporary help. The true Light of the World and our Redeemer is Jesus Christ.
God bless your ministry!