Categories : A Culture of Listening Listening to God


I want everything in my life to have purpose and meaning. Waste makes me squirm. I’d rather not face those times and places in my life that feel pointless. But we’ve all felt this ache, maybe even shame, over things that didn’t gel. We sense the “more” that could be, but it’s too murky to be of any use.

My waste place is my talents. The parts of me that showed so much promise…but never really panned out. These were the places where I’d made sacrifices in an effort to glorify Him. I thought my talents were gifts from Him that I could give back to Him. I ended up catching myself resenting them, lamenting the time and energy I “wasted” pursuing them.  Until one word transformed that resentment.

The Hebrew word תהו means waste as in “desolate”, and also means waste as in “pointless”,  just like in English.
It’s the word used to describe the Earth just before God spoke light. The creation account tells us the Earth and the waters were already there. So it’s not that there was nothing in the beginning.

It’s just that what was there was a total waste.

The wasteland is the place where God seems distant and silent. Your eyes get tired of squinting for glimpses of His promises. When you hear yourself saying things like “It’s pointless” you’re face to face with the waste place. The place where you feel forsaken…forgotten.

But the word תהו itself tells a very different story. The first character is the ת which represents a mark, as in “x marks the spot”. The central character, the one that often reveals the true essence of a Hebrew word, is the ה. It originally depicted a person standing with arms outstretched and raised. It meant “behold” or “pay attention”. The third character is a ו which represented a tent peg, and meant to secure or stabilize. So this word “waste” could also mean “mark of certain attention”.


The places and times in our lives that feel forsaken bear the mark of God’s attention. It’s not that God doesn’t speak here, it’s just that He hasn’t…yet. It’s not that it’s pointless. It’s just that God’s breath hasn’t infused it with life…yet.

And the Bible begins with proof of this principle. If we go back to that moment just before God speaks creation into being, the Earth is described as תהו, a formless waste. But He’s right there…hovering. Close enough to breathe on the surface of the waters.

What looks like a waste is about to teem with light and life.

So now, whenever any part of my life feels like a waste, I imagine the Spirit of God hovering. Just above the surface. Ready to speak life. His creative nearness has changed everything for me.

What in your life feels wasted? How does knowing that He’s hovering over that change things for you?

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  • Kelli Moore

    God has a new plan for me. He has confirmed it over and over. Yet, for now, I am only able to follow that path in my free time – which is limited at best. But He is hovering just above. I love the image that brings to mind. It comforts my soul. Thank you. 💗

    • mlekallio

      Kelli, isn’t the creative tension in that picture amazing? I find it so hopeful. You are not forgotten or forsaken my friend. Blessings to you!

  • anj

    I love the hope in this perspective, Hannah. Yesterday, our home church studied the story of Joseph in a different way than taking it chapter by chapter. We did sort of a flyover. What was telling about that perspective was seeing God’s plan, promise, providence, & provision unfold at warp speed… it’s a much different feeling when you’re down in the weeds living it.

    In my personal story, I’ve been holding tight to promises I felt certain of many years ago, seeing painstakingly slow (and sometimes seemingly backward) movement toward fruition. I’ve had many dreams of pregancy, in fact… it feels that this has been the longest pregnancy ever! And I have felt the Spirit hovering, as you mention. I still see God’s hand and blessings in my circumstances, even when it doesn’t look like I thought it would. I see how He is transforming me and preparing me. So in the moments when it all looks pointless, I climb above the weeds and see that it’s not. And my spirits lift and my attitude changes and I continue to seek God and His ways and purposes in the journey, not so hyper-focused on the next destination.

    I think Jospeh sets a great example of living in what could have been defined a wasteland. He was sold into slavery by his brothers, taken to a foreign “Godless” land, bullied and framed by Potiphar’s wife, thrown in jail, forgotten by the cup-bearer… and yet he seems to make the most out of each situation, continuing to seek and receive God.

    Thanks for sharing this great perspective Hannah. I always love the dimension you add to Scripture by sharing the Hebrew character meanings.

    • mlekallio

      Thank you for sharing from your experience, Anj. I also love your point about how when we get a different vantage point, we can see how intimately involved God is, even in those times when we feel forsaken. You are such a blessing!