Saturday, 07 November 2009
Something's been working inside of me this semester. Well, a lot of things have. But this particular idea isn’t something new, but rather a strengthening of a sense of awestruck wonder at a phenomenon that I can’t explain at all, and yet, I can so easily with one phrase.
Do you ever have that feeling of wonder and excitement that pounds in your chest and settles over your being in a wave of peace and appreciation?
Well, that’s what’s this is. And the phenomenon I have known my whole life and yet have a renewed appreciation for is this: God’s creation is wonderful.
‘Well of course,’ you may be thinking. Or you may be thinking, ‘What?’ Some may find this revelation silly and redundant, of course God’s creation is wonderful. God is good, therefore what God creates is good. And yet some may think, how can a God who lets disastrous things happen be called good, and how on earth could whatever that Great Being produces be good?
My answer may reconcile much of these different reactions. But first, let me explain the situations and experiences that have been culminating in my life the past few months that have lead to this great revelation.
Sometimes things happen which cause us to step back and evaluate our fellow human beings differently. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. This particular night, towards the beginning of the summer, it was for the better. I was going through a particularly rough time, which I was not exactly dealing well with, and when things such as that happen my only desire is to escape to a peaceful place. For me, that is generally one of two places. One is the Lion’s Bridge, and one is the fountain on campus. This particular night I found myself at the fountain as it was late at night and I had promised friends I wouldn’t go to the Lion’s Bridge alone at night any more. I was sitting against the cold, low, brick wall that surrounds the fountain with my knees propped up, elbows on my knees and my forehead on my arms, hiding my face from the world I felt, at the time, was turning against me and that I was trying so desperately to make sense of.
I was lost in the gentle sound of the water cascading from the fountain which sounded like the peaceful flapping of bird wings when something out of place entered my consciousness. It was a sound that didn’t belong, and that sound was that of bikes. Two, actually, with boys’ voices attached to them. I grimaced inwardly, hating to appear weak as I knew my posture conveyed even if they couldn’t see my tear-stained face in the dark. I was trying to decide if I wanted it to be someone I knew and or someone I didn’t know, praying silently that they couldn’t see me huddled up against the wall, when they stopped. I heard one of the voices clearly, and this time directed at me. It asked, “Are you alright?”
My brain took a moment to fire the neurons responsible for comprehending the question because I was in shock. I glanced up but was unable to see the faces of those who had stopped to check on me. I smiled faintly, lop-sided, and said gently, “I’m alright. Thanks.” The faceless forms nodded silently and resumed their late-night ride, as my inner voice whispered silently, “Either you just lied to them, or you really are okay.” I sighed, then realized something. I was okay. I would be okay. The world wasn’t as bad as I thought it was – two complete strangers on my college campus had cared enough to see if I was okay. This incident stuck with me but not enough to shatter my schemas of God’s creation.
Fast-forward to a few weeks later in the summer. I was sitting in church, but not the church I was used to. This was not your usual sanctuary, with pews and an altar and stained glass or other such decorative baubles and traditional religious icons. Rather, there was a stage, chairs set up, and screens on the wall with projectors aimed at them. I had never found a church home away from home, but a feeling of ‘this is it’ settled over me like a peaceful wave as I worshipped with a new congregation. Some were friends of mine, many were unknown to me, many were college-age. But as I glanced around to people-watch as I am apt to do, I was struck by something, some revelation that I hadn’t noticed in any other church I had been to. There were children of many ages, and there were adults of some varying ages, and there were college kids. Most churches I had been to were lacking in at least one of these areas at any given time. But here we were with different ages worshipping together, raising their hands in praise, closing their eyes in reverence to the One God that we were all there to adore and celebrate. I smiled to myself, giving a mental nod to God, thinking, “You really do work wonders.”
Now fast-forward a few months more. I was sitting in another church, this one also different from what I was used to. This one was, well, ginormous. I don’t care if that isn’t a word, there’s no other way to describe it. It was huge. I felt oddly out of place but tried not to let it show in my face or my posture, relaxing myself into worshipping with the friends I was with. The music was different, the building was different, the style of preaching was different, and yet, again, a feeling of peace washed away my feeling of uneasiness as I looked around. The hundreds of faces around me were extraordinarily different. The clothes they wore were extraordinarily different. A family with young children sat in front of me, and to my right were couples my grandparents’ age. I was sitting with fellow college young adults. The revelation struck me head on and my spirit reeled from the impact, and as it regained its composure, I couldn’t help but outwardly smile and had to suppress a giggle as the revelation became words. God brings people together. God’s creation is all so different. That particular day I had gone from speaking to a congregation of barely a couple dozen to worshipping with a congregation of hundreds and would be worshipping later at a festival of music which was bringing different churches from the area together with different styles of music. I smiled again, mentally comparing the churches, and realized one thing: no matter where we worship, God is there. No matter the church structure, from towering stone cathedrals and echoing walls to the warehouse of an abandoned building to a grassy area in downtown Newport News with homeless and college kids mixing as if there’s no difference, from spiritual chaos to traditional rigidity and structure – God is there. God works miracles no matter who you are or where you are.
The past couple days I’ve been contemplating on this trend of revelations manifesting themselves within me, and I know it is God working in my heart. I know it is God telling me, “I love you, no matter where you worship. I love you, no matter your favorite hobby or pizza topping. I love you whether you are Republican or Democrat, a girl or boy, in college or working. I love you because I made you, and I made you different from everyone else because that is how I wanted you to be.”
I was sitting here tonight folding laundry , reading, or watching a TV show on my laptop, depending on what time of night it was, and that revelation morphed itself into something similar and yet altogether different. Transformers comes to mind, really, but not quite as mechanical and not with the cool sound effects. It happened as I was, surprise surprise, on Facebook. Today was Election Day in Virginia, my home, as well as other states, and many of my friends were updating their statuses with their thoughts on the results thus far. I realized the diversity of my friends: boys and girls; black, white, Asian, Hispanic; foreigners and American citizens; gay and straight; Political Science majors, Computer Science majors and Communications majors; adopted and Republican and Democrat and nature lovers and actors and everything else you could possibly think of. The differences unsettled me at first as I realized those differences are often the root of arguments and hatred and tension, until that gentle caress of peace swept through my soul again. This time the revelation said, “You are all different because I made you that way. I wanted my children to be unique and special, with flaws and strengths, with opinions and beliefs. I created them to worship me in their own way with their own talents to give to the world in My Name.”
Romans 12 says, “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully” and 1 Corinthians 12 says, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.” We are commanded to appreciate the differences we have, striving to work as one whole body for One Purpose.
And now, as I sit here having seen this revelation culminate within me due to the prodding of my God working within me, I am excited. I am excited to see what differences tomorrow will reveal. I am excited to see what amazing things my friends accomplish with their unique talents and gifts. I am excited to see how one person’s strength helps another person’s weakness. I am excited to see what God has in store, and I sincerely hope you are as well. Let’s embrace the differences, as God created us that way for His Purpose. Fight for what you believe in, but fight for what glorifies God. Live your life in a celebration of differences and uniqueness. Celebrate Him. And if you see me smile at random times or giggle when no one’s said anything, don’t worry – I’m just appreciating the wonders of God’s creation. Feel free to smile or giggle along.
What revelations have you seen in your life?