Does it surprise you to look at these two photos, side by side?
The one on the left is among the tiniest of miracles, a cell in the brain. The one on the right is perhaps the grandest of miracles, the universe. Their similarity is striking. It’s all a matter of scale… and perspective. One wonders if they aren’t both the work of the same hand. (See my post: Divine Design makes you wonder.)
Why waste a perfectly good idea, right? As my friend Mary Lou puts it, “God is the ultimate economist and consummate recycler.” When we have the ability to look with appropriate perspective, we may see the signature of the designer.
But I wonder if the similarity isn’t just in appearance. Often the structure of a thing gives us clues to its function. Perhaps our growing understanding of the operation of the brain cell may shed light on interactions across our universe. Could what’s in us help explain what’s outside us and help us manage what’s between us?
Is it so far-fetched to think that the God of the universe has intentionally planted the answers to our deepest questions inside us? Is He patiently waiting for us to find them? I, as a student of the human body, find myself both dumb-founded to consider this and excited to think it might be so. Are God’s answers hiding in plain view, waiting to be acknowledged?
Certainly the beginning of new life begs us to consider God’s hand in its midst. Can there be anything more miraculous? Is there any more convincing witness to the hand of a Divine Creator?
Biblical writers certainly had this same awe, even though they had no ultrasound images to confirm their suspicions:
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth. ~ Psalm 139: 13-15
But let’s not stop at the miracle of the development of one body. All of us, the Church Universal, are being formed into the body of Christ.
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. ~ Ephesians 4:16
If we were designed to be joined and held together and thus to grow in love as we work together, our world today suggests we are far from God’s design. Yet, if God intends it, surely He has not made this an unsolvable puzzle. Perhaps the model for us as the Body of Christ is suggested in the workings of our own individual bodies.
Allow me, if you would, a moment of speculation as I put on my hat as physiologist. Science demonstrates that the human body is so much more than its anatomy – more than the skin we can see, the muscle we can bulge, the pulse we can touch, and the breath we can take in. Underneath all of these functions are the delicate and highly regulated interactions which make them work: organs and organ systems made up of tissues and cells all contributing what’s necessary for life.
The key to healthy life in the human body: cooperation among systems to co-exist while competing for a fixed supply of resources. Their successful interdependence is guided by a simple and familiar principle: to each according to its need. This delicate balance is maintained in response to the demands of life. Survival of the fittest is nonsense within the body because each part is necessary for the survival of the whole body.
No two systems in the human body are alike. Each is specialized for an essential task; none “considers” itself above the rest. How could it? What good would the heart be without blood to circulate? What good would the muscles do without limbs to move? What good is our breath if it can’t deliver what it inhales and exhales? What good is our skeleton without ligaments to allow it to stand? What good is a brain without means to connect and communicate? What good is sight without vision or sound without hearing?
Is this an echo of the message in First Corinthians?
If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. ~1 Cor 12:17-20
Could our bodies hold God’s message for our world?
They demonstrate so beautifully and seamlessly the choreography of interdependent parts negotiating life, giving and responding obediently for the good of the whole. There is no greater and no lesser, no greed and no hoarding, no scarcity and no hunger. The better the parts work together, the more abundant is the life.
Who in the world could have ever thought of that?
If we are to believe that our God is the ultimate economist and consummate recycler who loves all He created, then God wastes not one bit. Each part is necessary and intended for the good of the whole. Each one is essential to the life of the body. Each interaction effects all others. Unique, for sure. Different, for certain. Interdependent, completely. No exceptions.
It is the genius of perfect living balance: I take only what I need, so you will have what you need. Our ultimate survival may depend on it. So simple that any body can show you.
I need to see some evidence of life before I can declare it alive.
The textbook says that a thing must move, grow, reproduce, metabolize, and respond to stimuli to qualify as alive.
I need to …
- move through difficulty and ease
- grow in spirit and in strength
- reproduce and mentor to replace
- partake only my portion
- do unto others as I would want done unto me
to be fully alive.
There is life and then there’s life, abundant.
I’ll take abundance any day.
So, what sells you the car? the salesman or the test drive? Oh, I’ll take a look at the options available. I’ll keep an eye on the price tag. And I’m not above opting for the color I like. But when it comes right down to where I will invest my hard earned cash, I have to try it out and see if it works. For my needs.
That makes sense, right? Work it out. Letting it rest or sleeping on the decision isn’t…active enough. I think that may be why I find rest so unappealing. Because, on the outside, it looks like a very ineffective strategy. Why rest when there is so much to be done?
I know that God commanded us to rest in Him on the Sabbath. In fact, he was quite explicit and gave plenty of examples:
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all our work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. ~ Exodus 20:8-11
But did God really anticipate the 21st century when He said that? All the demands, the opportunities, the pace. He must have meant it for the Hebrews who really needed it. He was all about the rules back then. But today? Resting is so…old fashioned. It seems so…regulatory. Not at all restful. And really, not compelling.
I love Elizabeth Canham’s honesty about this: (Heart Whispers: Benedictine Wisdom for Today, pg 103):
“Foundational to human wholeness is the model of the Creator who rested on the seventh day from every work. The Hebrew Scriptures are filled with references to honoring the Sabbath. However, keeping the Sabbath itself does not cause the Hebrews to enter God’s rest any more than my punctilious “no sewing on Sunday” and other taboos in my youth enabled me to experience the gift of rest. Why? Because faith is lacking; stopping becomes a duty severed from relationship with God.”
That’s it. Being commanded to rest makes it feel like a duty. I can force myself to rest but that’s not restful. In fact it’s downright de-energizing. I don’t think that’s why God prescribed it.
A funny thing happens, though, when I take God’s advice and embrace rest. When I actually take it for a test drive to see how it runs. Not a month’s vacation at a sunny resort or even a sleep until noon kind of rest. More of a working restfulness into the other plans I have. A sort of rotating rest into the starting pitchers line up. The time off leaves me amazed at how strong I am when I re-engage with the day’s activities.
It’s totally counter-intuitive: rest makes me stronger. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t tried it. Not in a rule-bound way, but an obedient, you-probably-know-best kind of way. Coupled with God patiently waiting for me to work it out myself, the way He knows I need to.
But now that I have given it a try, it really makes perfect sense. We need rest to rebuild. This isn’t just philosophy talk. It’s science. Working (and working out) breaks us down. It stresses bones and muscles and joints causing micro-damage. Resting allows recovery. Literally, the time off to eat, drink, sleep, and socialize is when we rebuild. The weakened places are made stronger. Even our growth hormone secretion peaks while we’re sleeping. We’re made to rebuild while we rest. No wonder it works.
And that’s the funny thing about God-speak. Sometimes, on the face of it, it doesn’t seem to make sense. But when I look in the rear view mirror at how it worked out, it is perfectly clear. Should have been obvious to me the whole time.
No wonder God said, honor the Sabbath. It works. It just seems so unorthodox.
It would have gone so much better for me if I had just heeded the commandment with a willing heart. But no, I had to do it the hard way.
Tomorrow’s post, sneak preview: “A thing at rest tends to stay at rest…”