The Bible says God is “up there.” God reigns on high. God goes up to joyful shouts. Raise your eyes to heaven. Lift your hearts to God. God is a higher power.
But the Bible also says God is “down there.” In chasms, valleys, bedrock, graves. In the depths of love, loss, and pain. In the depth of prayer, too, where sighs replace words. God is a lower power.
Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls. – Psalm 42:7 (NIV)
Moses discovered this with Pharaoh breathing down his neck. God’s power plunged under the sea, exposing seabed. Once they got down to the bottom of things, the Hebrew children were free.
Jonah discovered this sailing away (he thought) from God. In a storm, the crew tossed him overboard. Down he sank. Up from fathoms came Leviathan to save him. Spewed onto Nineveh’s shore, he finally did God’s will.
Ezekiel learned this on a grisly tour of a bone-strewn valley. Like corpses bulldozed into pits at Treblinka, the bones were a people, the “whole House of Israel.” In genocidal depths, Ezekiel preached them back to life.
Christ went deepest of all, dispossessing himself of highness in a mother’s womb. One silent night she laid him to sleep in a lowly trough. Deep in rock he was laid to sleep again, dead from wounds we gave him. In the final abyss God found him. Easter took place in a grave.
If God is a lowness, here’s what I wonder:
Why do I, who claim to love God, try so hard to go high, climb the ladder, stay on top? Why don’t I take the lowly way, downwards into fissures love has not yet filled, into the world’s deep pain? Why don’t I seek a humbler, more hidden life with this fathomless Mercy awaiting me down there, where freedom begins, and deep calls longingly to deep?
God of the deep, O deepen me.
About the Author
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.