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Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

I like the image of a God who knits. A weaving, writing God who gets dirty in the making appeals to the DIY, anarcho-punk sensibility in me, an aesthetic that prizes the work and creativity of homemade construction—and particularly the labor of women and community. The image is that of teenage girls cutting and pasting zines on their bedroom floors, of gutter punks patching their jean jackets with safety pins, of community organizers cooking up giant pots of spaghetti to feed a crowd. It’s a combination of necessity, reckless optimism, and fiercely loyal passion that fashions a product that might be a little wonky, a little rough around the edges, but that holds all the care and promise of the creator, even her own blood, sweat, and tears, her fear and her wonder.

The appreciation for collaboration speaks to me too. Sharing ideas, supplies, and space, and engaging in radically open communication rather than hoarding and isolation is part of what keeps the movement alive and flourishing. No person is an island, and we accomplish and achieve so much better and more beautiful things when we work together rather than in toxic competition.

This psalm describes a creative God who is intimately acquainted with us. And as we are created, so we create, with God by our side all the time. The God we read about here is closer to us than we are to ourselves, or, as Augustine says, more inward to me than my most inward part.”[1] Indeed, this all-knowing all-seeing reality-shaping God sounds a lot like a pre-cognitive subconscious. That powerful, roiling, pre-creative, procreative chaos below the surface that bubbles up into being. That formless non-stuff that’s already there, whether we are attentive to it or not, whether we are meaning to make or not. This force, if we honor and pay attention to it, can lead us in creating a beautiful and fearsome and wonderful, if ragged, world.

What does it mean to collaborate with an ever-present, ever-knowing force, that knows me better than I know myself, that makes me and guides me in ways I can’t fully understand? Based on this text, we can say it involves praise. There is a reverence for the movement of this Spirit, which, despite its weightiness that descends to the depths of the earth still soars to ungraspable heights. There is an appreciation of wholeness—of the entire person, the entire world, the good and the bad that in its entirety can seem overwhelming. It also involves curiosity. An attempt to count even the sand, and a desire to seek as we are sought, to know as we are known. It seems the key would be neither to try to dominate or take control of this creative power, nor to be driven by it blindly.

This subconscious God, who sees our deepest motivations and drives, who knows why we do what we do even when we don’t, calls us to collaboration. To look inside ourselves and know ourselves as this God knows us, and to use the creative power buzzing through and out of these motivations to make. To make art, food, community, and a world that is worthy of the love and care that we put into it, that is put into us, that is shared in collaboration with a loving God.

The psalms are lyrical poems that explore the heights and depths of human experience, and in this case we see the expression of our own mystery to ourselves. The passage also gives the sense that there is nonetheless a knowability that is just out of reach, that an intimate God might be present to our subconscious and know the things that aren’t quite clear to us. What’s more, these knowable-unknown mysteries are precisely what drive us to create, just as they create us.

This psalm calls us to encounter this intimate, interior God, the secret desires and inspirations that drive us, and to come to love and collaborate with this subconscious force as we collaborate with each other, to get our hands dirty in the tiring and fulfilling work of creating a better world, and to pour ourselves into this work, loving dearly what we create, warts and all. [1] Augustine, Confessions