Go Into the Gaps
I often find ‘non-biblical’ thinkers have some amazing things to say when they read the bible; they bring new eyes to passages that we so often tread and re-tread in the same ways. Here is a passage from Annie Dillard’s nature meditations, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, which I just finished reading.
“Ezekiel excoriates false prophets as those who have “not gone into the gaps”. The gaps are the thing. The gaps are the spirit’s one home….The gaps are the cliffs in the rock where you cower to see the back parts of God; they are the fissures between mountains and cells the wind lances through, the icy narrowing fiords splitting the cliffs of mystery. Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps.”
There are all sorts of places to take this reading. She is mentioning the verse of Ezekiel 13:5 in which Ezekiel calls out Israel and their false prophets, saying ” You have not gone up into the gaps to build a wall for the house of Israel to stand in battle on the day of the Lord”. Any commentary I’ve seen has simply taken this at face value, taking the message that Christians need to stand up and defend the faith, being willing to ‘fill in the gaps’. We easily take up the battle metaphors. The gaps are bad, they show weakness.
There’s nothing wrong with this reading, it fits. But maybe the gaps are good. What if we see it, as Dillard does, that the gaps are possibilities? The false prophets have, then, not been willing to go there and are content to be safe where they are, behind the walls. The call is to be willing to explore and to take risks and to recognize that faith is not without its gaps. The call is then to seek out the crevices, the spaces which have been neglected but which contain the richness, beauty and foibles of belief.
Much of this reading appeals to me and my work, the exploration of viewpoints that have been subjugated to the gaps of faith and society. It is these ‘gaps’ which contain a wealth of possibility. Anyone who has worked with a disenfranchised population knows what I mean (we often hear the narrative of those who learn from the homeless or from impoverished groups). Within faith, what is being missed by not ‘stalking the gaps’? Is it, while hiding in these crevices, that God will pass by, that revelation happens? I like the possibilities that a reading like this opens.