I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him. Ecclesiastes 3, verse 14.
We’re pretty vain if we honestly think we’re all that and a bag of Fritos. Sure, I’m all for applauding human accomplishment. The tallest building in the world, Mount Rushmore (and the Crazy Horse mountain nearby), the Declaration of Independence, the battle of Bannockburn, everything said by Winston Churchill, and Asian airports built on land that used to be part of the ocean: they’re all significant achievements of humanity. They’re monuments to what we can do, in many cases what’s best in our nature. So are feeding the entire continent of Europe after World War II, putting men into outer space, every city in the ancient Mayan culture, and the US Interstate Highway system (which, by the way, is the single largest construction project in all of human history…you can look that up).
We the people can and should do some pretty amazing things. When I was a kid, a portable computer like my iPhone was science fiction, very Captain Kirk. Now they’re very affordable. Have you ever watched a 747 take off? It constantly amazes me that something so massive and heavy can actually take to the air by manipulating some very basic principles of wind, thrust and velocity. And have you ever heard of the Three Gorges Dam project on the Yellow River in China? MASSIVE construction effort to harness the power of the river and electrify much of rural eastern China which, even in this so-called modern century, still lives like it is 1012 instead of 2012. When we harness the human spirit to what is within our control, we can push the limits of our abilities and do extraordinary things.
Yet I’m reminded of the corny joke where scientists challenge God to a man-making contest. “We can make a man just like you can,” say the scientists. God accepts their challenge and, when the scientists begin by scooping up a handful of dirt, God says, “No, first you make your own dirt.”
All those wonderful projects and massive accomplishments are really little more than rearranging somebody else’s real estate. We do what we do because of what God did before us. Build a city, plant a thousand-acre farm, re-channel rivers and harness atomic power: human kind has been there, done that. They are significant accomplishments from human knowledge, human talent, and human drive. So, too, are forgiving your friends when they say terrible things about you, overlooking wrongs done to you, or saying “I’m sorry” when you’ve done something wrong. In the long run, history books will talk about the famous acts but I believe the daily “I’m sorry’s” will mean more.
And all of those are still simply using the gifts God gives us. We are simply re-allocating the earth He created, the talents He bestowed, and the love that He first shared. That last part is the reason why, you know. It was out of love that He has done all He has done. It was in love that He continually makes things new. It is for His glory – that He may have it and we may share in it – that we are witnesses to these things.
No, you don’t have to wear robes, preach like Billy Graham, or even memorize much about Scripture to testify to how magnificent is the creation in which we live; I don’t. I’m as far from being ‘holy’ as a man can get. I don’t know how to be better on my own, but through God I can be. Sharing that love as He would ought to be the first, best method. Love, forgive, understand, improve and, most of all, give thankful worship are all it takes. What of those things costs very much? And what of them is bad or harmful to us? I think you know the answer.
Here in June of 2012 I live in Texas but semi-regularly commute to my birthplace in Minnesota where I work. I do my part working with people to make complex issues understandable, and to keep peoples’ healthcare claims moving forward. It can be mundane work, but so many extraordinary things have happened to make it possible. God worked many small miracles through thousands of people living their lives as they do, and those things laid the ground work for me to be where I am, do what I do. What I do where I am is part of that cycle, and it is all for the greater glory of Him who stands with me, so that others may benefit and He be raised up. Even when I don’t quite ‘get it,’ He’s still there guiding and helping.
Last month, I was enjoying a lunch at a park in downtown Minneapolis, beside the Mississippi River. There’s a nice park near the Hennepin Avenue bridge, in front of the old flour mill district. In the river, there are locks and different man-made waterfalls that have tamed the once raging rapids into a more gentle flow. It took massive construction and great endeavor to re-channel the river and harness its power, but that’s what happened (kind of like a small scale of what the Chinese have done). Today, you can sit there and enjoy a bag of White Castles and simply ponder just like I did. At the end of it, if you walk away feeling all puffed up at what a great and wonderful people we are, I’m thinking that you’ve missed the point. A better way might be to stop, think about this verse, and remember that before you or I saw the river, it was there. Before we moved the rocks to alter the flow, somebody made those rocks. And before any of that was there, there was God. Noodle that one and make it a great day by making it to a glory greater than our own.