God in the details

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities — His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. — Romans 1:20, NLT

frangipaniIf you spend enough time reading me here at AnotherThink, and the experience doesn’t drive you around the bend, you’ll discover that I have a particular style of expressing myself, a preference for certain words and figures of speech, and a tendency to formulate my thoughts in predictable ways. There is a certain inescapable Charlieness in everything I write, indeed, in everything I do.

Each of us have certain signature characteristics and quirks that make us unique. When the phone rings, you probably recognize the caller as a good friend by the unique qualities of her voice. When I visit an art museum, I know certain artists on sight by their style and the subjects they choose.

I was thinking about this while watching the movie Braveheart. There is a point in the musical score where a phrase resolves into a particular chord, and I immediately recognized it as something I had heard before in the movie Apollo 13. It was distinctive, and it seemed an unlikely coincidence. James Horner wrote the musical score for Apollo 13. As I listened more closely, I heard other familiar bits and pieces that convinced me that Horner had also written the music for Braveheart. A quick search on IMDB proved me right.

It wasn’t that Horner was taking shortcuts; the music he wrote for those two films couldn’t be more different. Every composer has his own musical vocabulary and grammar, and Horner simply made use of a style that is uniquely his and that revealed his identity as surely as if he had signed his name.

Like my writing, and like the brush strokes of an artist or the musical phrases chosen by a composer, I believe life itself is composed of signature elements that reveal the identity of its Creator.

There is life’s exuberance, the way it fills every nook and cranny, from the macroscopic to the microscopic realms. The world is not merely alive, it is teeming with life, awash in life, thriving, bursting and overflowing with a an unstoppable flood of life, as if someone had tapped into a deep artesian well and uncorked a great sea. Such exuberance is remarkable given life’s fragility, and all the more remarkable given the fact that in our neighborhood in the universe, there seems to be no other place where life flourishes with the wild abandon it shows here on Earth.

There is life’s irrepressibility and dogged persistence, in which, despite a long history of climatic calamity and variability, of conflict between organisms and species, life has continually reorganized, rebooted as it were, adapted, persevered and endured.

There is life’s breathtaking elegance, the way complex systems are constructed of a few basic elements, which serve as the building blocks for a suite of proteins, which in turn join together so perfectly to form carefully-balanced systems that are durable, efficient, highly specialized and remarkably powerful.

There is life’s extravagant and unnecessary beauty, including a palate of color that spans the entire visible spectrum, dazzling varieties of patterns and forms, many of which have been imitated in human art because of their pleasing symmetry, balance and proportion. Life flourishes in a sensual feast everywhere we turn.

Then, of course, there are those relational qualities that make us better than we might otherwise be. Love and self-sacrifice, the ability to step away from self-interest and act for the benefit of others, sometimes to our own detriment. Empathy and sympathy, qualities that encourage us to see life through the eyes of a stranger. Hope and duty, qualities that prompt us to think and act in ways that benefit the future. Commitment and honor, qualities that cause us to subordinate our personal needs and desires for priorities that benefit family and community.

All of these things can be explained, if not convincingly, as the natural consequences of a blind evolutionary process that has been at work, serendipitously, for millions of years here on our little planet, and is doubtless at work elsewhere in the universe. And that certainly is a possibility, though it would require the very longest of long-shots, making the recent Mega Million Lottery seem like a sure thing by comparison.

An infinitely more satisfying explanation, and one that I personally find easier to swallow, is that all of these qualities of life are like musical notes from the creative repertoire of the Creator God of the Bible.

As I encounter these various musical phrases and familiar melodies in the everyday experiences of living, I smile, pause and thank God for revealing himself through his creation. My Christianity leads me to expect to meet God in the daily minutiae of life, and when it happens it’s a cause for joy, like spotting an old friend in a crowd.

Christianity is a relationship with — in fact a continual series of encounters with — the living God. At times we merely catch his shadow falling across the landscape or spot his footprints in the garden. Sometimes we are convinced that he is present with us. Faith invites us to live in the belief that we walk in God’s world, and that he walks here, too.

What causes you to believe, or doubt, that God is present in the world?

Photo credit: T. Beth Kinsey, Wildlife of Hawaii

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Comments

  1. That is so right! And it’s not just that God made this world for his own enjoyment, which he certainly did, but that he made it for our enjoyment as well, and then outfitted us with everything we need to enjoy it. I doubt that I have done half as well for the fish in my aquarium. I enjoy watching them in it, but I can’t tell if they are having fun or not or if they have any idea how beautiful they are. I can’t even figure out how a fish knows that it is a guppy and not a swordtail. Also, I have no idea what other animals get out of flowers and sunsets, much less music, but I’m pretty sure that it is nothing like what we get out of them. That is, unless and until we decide that there is really nothing very special out there, at which point, sure enough, our foolish hearts become darkened (Romans 1:21) and the universe becomes flat and gray — for us, anyway.

    And what lies ahead? I keep thinking of what the prodigy Akiane told her mother at five years of age, that “the music in heaven is better than here. This music hurts my ears and my head really bad, but heavenly music is always gentle. I can’t tell you how different it is from what you hear on earth! It feels like joy, looks like love, smells like flowers and dances like butterflies. Music there is alive! You can even taste it.” As Steve Jobs apparently said while passing from this life to another, “Oh, Wow! Oh, Wow! Oh, Wow!” Or as Ravi Zacharias’s father-in-law said at a similar transition in his life, “Amazing! It’s just amazing!”

    Clearly, it behooves us to remain aware and be ever grateful.

  2. I printed this out the day after you posted it, and have just read it…

    So beautiful and so very true. Thank you for your wonderful insights.

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