Gift 57 – The World (As We Knew It)

So…where exactly are we?

I love exploring how human beings have answered this question for the last few thousand years or so.

Ancient people groups had all kinds of ideas about the world and just precisely how it all worked. Some folks imagined the sky was some kind of celestial canvas separating humans from the gods, and the stars were merely holes poked into the tarp-like divider that revealed the glory of the heavens beyond. Others (including the ancient Hebrews and their neighbors) pictured the world like a massive snow globe supported by view of worldgreat pillars below and covered by a vault that kept out the waters above (except when the floodgates of heaven were opened and the waters came down…we say, “hey it’s raining!” today).

The oldest discovered maps show how our human ancestors imagined the world to be flat.  That is until those clever Greeks figured out that we’ve been living on a ball all this time (Mind. Blown.). Even so, their very best maps looked something like this:

posidonius map

Eventually, this dude named Pomponius divided the earth into five separate sectors (only 2 were habitable, he thought) and discovered an invisible belt that separated northern and southern hemispheres. Now we’re getting somewhere…

Pomponius map

Jump forward about 1500 years (and a whole bunch of crazy looking maps) later and we have southern Germany’s own Martin Waldseemüller (it took me forever to figure out how to make the u do that) who compiled Waldseemuller map 2information for years and years in order to develop a clearer vision of the earth.  First ever shout out to “America” on a map. Looking familiar yet?

 

The progression went something like this: “There’s way more land than we thought” and then, “There’s way more water than we thought” and then, “So apparently this thing is round?!?” and then, “Believe it or not, there’s more land on the other side of all that water!” and on and on, all the way to the pictures of the earth we have today.

And then, of course, our perception of earth’s place in the universe has radically (like radically radically radically) transformed as we started dabbling with high-powered telescopes (uh oh, here we go again…). Come to find out, there’s a whole lot of universe out there.

Watch this video if you want your head to explode:

 

When I think about our ever developing understanding of the world—how we’ve gone from thinking the earth is a snow globe in the very center of the universe (which isn’t very big anyway), to the realization that our puny planet is smaller than a single punctuation in the vast realm of the Internet—I can’t help but think about our ever growing understanding of God.

In one way, God has made himself known through what we call “revelation”: The Scriptures, and the natural world, and most importantly, Jesus. But in another way, I believe with all my heart that we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of just who God is.

In the Bible, after talking about how incredible and overwhelming God is, Job concludes with this: “And these are but the outer fringes of his works; how faint a whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?”

And earlier in the Bible, when Manoah asked an angel for its name, the angel replied, “Why do you ask my name? For it is too wonderful for you to endure.” AHH!  And that’s just an angel! Imagine what God’s Name sounds like! Actually no, don’t even try.

And through the prophet Isaiah, God said, “I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me? Let them proclaim it!” Yep, God is being sarcastic there at the end.

My point is this…just like how our concept of the world is ever unfolding like an always-budding flower, so too our understanding of God blooms and blossoms as we make new scientific discoveries, explore new places, uncover new species, and even tell new stories. This is why learning can be a thrilling form of worship!

Maybe heaven will be a sort of exploration into the never-ending glory and goodness of God, and we’ll have to constantly make new maps as He shows himself to be even more and even better than we thought the day before.

The Eastern Orthodox Bishop Kallistos Ware said, “It is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question, but to make us progressively aware of a Mystery. God is not so much the object of our knowledge as the cause of our wonder.”

My prayer for you, Rea, is that you begin this God-discovering process at a young age and continue to your last day when the journey will begin in earnest. I love you.

– Dad

 

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Gift 3 – Wonder

“Never once in my life did I ask God for success or wisdom or power or fame. I asked for wonder, and he gave it to me.”

– Abraham Joshua Heschel

So come to find out the sun is humongous. Like really big.

I mean, the earth alone is unimaginably large. Just last year scientists discovered a remote part of the Amazon rainforest that people had never been to before and found 258 new species of plants, 84 new kinds of fish, 22 new reptiles, 18 undocumented birds, and 1 new mammal (it’s a monkey that purrs like a cat when it is happy). How crazy that we’ve lived on this planet for thousands and thousands of years and haven’t even seen the whole thing yet!

A few days ago I walked from Zeeland to Holland (about 7 miles) and it took for-ev-er. As long as my exhausting walk took, the distance registers less than the diameter of a grain of sand on google maps, even when just looking at little ol’ Michgian. My fist thought was that Lewis and Clarke must have been insane. My second thought was something along the lines of, Whoa, Earth is a beast.

But as massively massive as planet Earth is, my brain pooped its pants when I was told that the sun is an estimated million times bigger. A million times bigger?!?!…what?

Does it seem just a little humorous to anyone else that there is giant ball one million times bigger than our entire planet floating in our sight all day long—oh, and did I mention that the massive sphere is basically on fire!—and no one even acts like this is unusual?

Pardon me…PAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! WHAT?! If my brain had a diaper it would currently be full. I mean, a million times bigger than earth?! What does that even mean?

When you stop to think about it, everything is pretty much awesome. A few weeks ago I started making a list of amazing things that I’d been taking for granted all my life. Here is a little snippet:

– Everything in my house came from the earth. The toaster, the lamp, the television—all these things came from the ground and are only in their current form after a complicated and precise series of processes and exchanges. It’s like Adam and Eve were given the earth and a piece of paper saying “some assembly required” and here we are today with skyscrapers and jet skis like they magically fell from the sky.

– How the human body works. I’ve had one my whole life and still have no clue what’s going on. My brain works without my telling it to. My heart beats without my telling it to. My eyes see without my telling them to. The whole thing is one astonishing compilation of cells, organs…cells…and I think other stuff too (my biological knowledge is slightly limited ☺).

– People get so excited over 3D movies, apparently forgetting that life was already 3D to begin with though nobody seemed to notice.

The more you think about it the more you start to realize that everything is awesome, and strange, and unexplainable. Here is where the gift comes in. Wonder is essentially having eyes to see. Wonder means living with the conviction that everything connects to everything else. Wonder is going to the border of things imaginable and placing your palms against your brain’s boundaries to feel the warmth of God’s breath on the other side.

This is a valuable gift because there aren’t many folks with wide-open eyes. Not only will wonder make you a visionary in the dullness of everyday, but more importantly, it will become a wellspring of worship swelling up and over in your life. Oh, and I almost forgot, it will make school way less boring.