From the Ground Up

Irish comedian Dylan Moran has a bit where he challenges the construction of the human body. Indeed this is something of a trope among atheistic comedians, that they find humans to be poorly formed. And indeed there are foibles in life, age and infirmity, increase these. But the simple answer to these disparagement is the Fall. Sin brought sickness, frailty, and death to the earth. Christians readily admit our fallen nature and all that it entails. However, we also hold to the truth that we are intricately designed, planned, made with distinction. 

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.a

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.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me,

when as yet there was none of them. – Psalm 139:13-16

So for all of the kvetching about biting the insides of our mouths it is helpful to realize that it really is a bug and not a feature. For the atheist comedian, the inversion may make for good  humor but after the laughs are over a sense of cold nihilism creeps into the soul. 

For the Christian, we have great joy found first in our creator, and then in how he created us, “fearfully and wonderfully.” There was nothing slap dash about our creation, or any part of creation. God wrote every single line of your DNA and every word of your story. And in all of that is revealed is loving and generous attention to detail. Consider petrichor, the wonderful earthy fresh smell right before rain. God did not have to create that, it is just a delightful detail of the world that comes to us as a free gift. There is no reason for us to have foods with different flavors, and the tastebuds to experience those flavors, then there is texture. And even on that the minutiae of being able to feel the textures of smoke form different cigars, or the tasting notes on whiskeys. God made all of these tiny details that make the greater creative whole. And over all of that he has charted out all these pleasures, unfolding into eternity.

“I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes – that every particle of spray that dashes against the steamboat has its orbit, as well as the sun in the heavens – that the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as the stars in their courses.” – C.H. Spurgeon

I have previously written on how we can overlook that God has predestined the good things in life. Those good things and good moments all come from the hand of God and were prepared for you by Him before He even made you. But consider all of the little things that God brought together to craft a great moment, for you. He harmonizes innumerable factors, and delights in doing it, from the friends present, to the smells, tastes, weather, insect count all of it was put into motion that we might delight and give glory. 

This was further impressed upon me the other night in what would seem merely a series of random factors came together to produce a most exquisite evening. Beginning in the morning with Hudson suddenly feeling the desire for company and we two making a plan. Out of the blue the weather shifted from a standard hot and humid Memphis summer to the first cool crisp day of autumn. Hudson grabbed the last bottle of Lagavulin 16 at Buster’s. I discovered a five pack of Montecriso Platinum Series toros tucked away in my collection. My wife decided she was going to make tacos, other friends began dropping by, a motion was made that we move to the back deck and light a fire in the pit. It passed unanimously. A tasting of Johnny Walkers took place. Music was played in the background. The evening cooled and the fire grew to combat the temperatures. More cigars were called for. Amber ales flowed. And conversation was had. We discussed eldership in the church, the good gift of friends with broad age ranges, what spiritual maturity should look like, and we committed to memorizing the book of Ephesians. In a moment of wild enthusiasm I threw my phone and chipped the corner. And now I have a reminder of that particular evening, and every bit of it was orchestrated by a grand master of the ceremonies. 

Obviously gratitude is one way in which God would receive glory from the enormous blessing that he bestowed. But glory is also given in enjoying the gift. Any gift giver is most happy when they see what they give is cherished, enjoyed, used. God also wants His gifts to be received and enjoyed and He delights in our delight. Because, at the end of the day, pleasure was created by God. It was his idea, along with all of the small innumerable little parts of creation that come to us by sheer gift. 

You make known to me the path of life;

    in your presence there is fullness of joy;

    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. – Psalm 16:11

As Screwtape, and you should have seen this quote coming, reminds us, “He’s a hedonist at heart. All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a façade. Or only like foam on the seashore. Out at sea, out in His sea, there is pleasure, and more pleasure. He makes no secret of it… He has a bourgeois mind. He has filled His world full of pleasures.” God is the author, perfecter, and giver of delights. It all flows from Him. 

I will leave you with an illustrative passage from Robert Farrar Capon:

“Let me tell you why God made the world. One afternoon, before anything was made, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit sat around in the unity of their Godhead discussing one of the Father’s fixations. From all eternity, it seems, he had had this thing about being. He would keep thinking up all kinds of unnecessary things — new ways of being and new kinds of beings to be. And as they talked, God the Son suddenly said, “Really, this is absolutely great stuff. Why don’t I go out and mix up a batch?” And God the Holy Spirit said, “Terrific! I’ll help you.” So they all pitched in, and after supper that night, the Son and the Holy Spirit put on this tremendous show of being for the Father. It was full of water and light and frogs; pine cones kept dropping all over the place and crazy fish swam around in the wine glasses. There were mushrooms and mastodons, grapes and geese, tornadoes and tigers — and men and women everywhere to taste them, to juggle them, to join them and to love them. And God the Father looked at the whole wild party and said, “Wonderful! Just what I had in mind! Tov! Tov! Tov!” And all God the Son and God the Holy Spirit could think of to say was the same thing, “Tov! Tov! Tov!” So they shouted together “Tov!” And they laughed for ages and ages, saying things like how great it was for beings to be and how clever of the Father to think of the idea, and how kind of the Son to go to all that trouble putting it together, and how considerate of the Spirit to spend so much time directing and choreographing, and for ever and ever they told old jokes, and the Father and the Son drank their wine in unitate Spiritus Sancti, and threw ripe olives and pickled mushrooms at each other per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

It is, I grant you, a crass analogy; but crass analogies are the safest. Everybody knows that God is not three old men throwing olives at each other. Not everyone, I’m afraid, is equally clear that God is not a cosmic force or principle of being or any other dish of celestial blancmange we might choose to call Him. Accordingly, I give you the central truth that creation is the result of a Trinitarian bash, and leave the details of the analogy to sort themselves out as best they can.  – R.F. Capon

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