Hovering Over the Hurricane

Quincy Brown


It’s hurricane season. As I write, Tropical Storm Cristobal is crawling across Mexico and about to make a run in the US. Over the past few weeks, many of us have experienced the swirling effects of gale-force hurricane winds. We’ve all witnessed several moving images that have taken our breaths away—to put it bluntly; it feels like things are a mess.
I’m breathless, and I’ve been trying to mentally and emotionally process the hurricane-like experiences happening in our world today. It saddens me, makes me sick and tired of being sick and tired, but unfortunately, it doesn’t surprise me. For too many times, this has been the reality of people who look like me. The names of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd add to a very long list of black people whose lives have been cut short. As a social media meme has put it: “It’s horrible that property is being destroyed, but killing black men and women has to stop.”
As difficult as this is for me to express, and for others to discuss, racism is a spiritual issue that continues to show its ugly nature. As America’s original sin, racism is part of our country’s fabric that informs our cultural assumptions, those submerged beliefs, and unconscious attitudes that influence unjust behavior.
Every time I think about Original Sin, I remember that the story is from Genesis 3. But Genesis, the book of beginnings, starts with chapter 1 and not chapter 3!  To find breathing room, I focus on the Creation story found in Genesis chapter 1 to help me catch my breath. Lately, the images and themes that are stirring me are: “darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” I certainly feel that darkness over the face of the deep: the ocean-like reservoir of the deep hurt and pain that I and all people who look like me have felt.
In what feels like a watery mess that’s too big for one person to clean up, it’s hard to catch our collective breath. I keep reading that the Spirit of God is hovering over the waters. However, hovering isn’t the word I need to subside my deep hurt and pain. But the word “hover” will not go away, and I wrestle with why this image will not leave me alone. It wasn’t until I Googled the phrase “hover in the Bible” that I began to see an answer. The word “hover” only appears in the Bible twice, once here in Genesis 1, and again in Deuteronomy 32:11, the song of Moses during the transition of Israel’s leadership and power that reminded the people of God’s faithfulness for the future.
The visual image of the wind and hovering carries over to the Pentecost experience where suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. It’s not lost on me that the words winds, breath, and Spirit is the Hebrew word “Ruach” in the Bible.
Like the Genesis creation story, Moses’ song of God’s faithfulness, and Pentecost, God still hovers over chaos! I remain tired yet hopeful. I’m optimistic that our churches will be the people of God. Just as Moses and the Israelites experienced God in a new way by walking on the floor of the deep Red Sea, and the disciples had the Holy Spirit blow into and interrupt their lives, I’m hopeful that we will live fully into our baptismal vows:
On behalf of the whole Church, I ask you: Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?
Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?
I’m optimistic that we will revisit the foundation of renouncing the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of our sin. I realize that talking about racism will draw criticism. I also recognize that there will be people who will never personally know the pain of the black community.  I don’t want to dampen passion. Instead, I want to encourage conversation—even if you disagree. If you don’t know where to start, I invite you to listen to the stories, the reactions, the statements, and to learn and share. 
Sustainable change depends on people who are willing to respectfully share different opinions and experiences to find spaces to talk about this matter. The sin of racism cannot be erased without committed prayer and Bible Study, allowing the Holy Spirit to examine and change our assumptions and values, and intentional behavior that matches our beliefs
It’s hurricane season, and though we’re passing through some turbulent waters today, God will be with us. When we move through the rivers, they will not sweep over us. My faith says that when we walk through the emotional fires of anger, hurt, and pain of racism, it will not burn us, and the flames will not set us ablaze. May the Pentecost Spirit of creation hover above, descend upon, and begin the painful process of renewing us from within so that our behavior will match our beliefs and that we will use our power and influence to fight against injustice. I continue to pray for all of our congregations and country during this hurricane of tension and unrest.

On the Journey,

This illustration by Ross Boone (Raw Spoon) is meant to encourage racial unity in communication, mutual understanding, and healing. We are the same body of Christ. We breathe the same breath of our Creator. You can find this art at RawSpoon.com/art


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