Monday, March 23, 2009

It's Just a Chiton, but it's so Much More!

Yesterday at church, Gary and Pastor Ken were recounting the happenings of the previous day's Men's Retreat at Fort Casey. After the talk that was given (it was briefly described as about the heart--the rest was left for us to wonder...oh well...), they went down to the beach. Pastor Ken described a chiton that they found as they were walking along. He had no idea how that mention of a chiton would stir up memories for me! And they are memories of summer camp that have been augmented by the discovery I since made about the fact that the creation I was exploring is indeed God's creation. Glorious!
In junior high school, I used to go to an oceanographic summer camp through Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. It was down at Coos Bay, and I remember just how wonderful it was to learn about all the funny and amazing creatures that hide themselves under the rocks and in the varying depths of the beach environment. When Gary and I were first married, we went down there on a trip, and I tried showing him the wonders of the beaches there; I remembered having seen octopus, pycnopodia starfish, gumboot chitons, limpets, hermit crabs, brittle stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, jellyfish, sea anemones, and sand shrimp. Alas, one or two people can't possibly uncover the whereabouts of the sea creatures like a crowd of 30 or 60 kids can do--though I'm sure we're far less stressful to those animals by our inept search than those kids would have been! I took him down to Shell Island, but we didn't find much of anything. I took him to a dock where we'd spent some hours on our stomachs, leaning over and looking at the underside where tube worms and sea slugs and mussels and starfish and barnacles made their homes. It had been such a rich, colorful environment to see...but it was condemned, and there was a high fence all around us to keep us from lying down on the dock and sinking into the water, I guess. I think being completely dunked would have been worth the momentary view! So Gary only got to know Coos Bay on a very surface level, only helped by what I could tell him. It was entirely inadequate to express the reality of the underwater world.
Even though in those jr. high school years, I had no real understanding of how those animals came to exist, I couldn't help but be amazed by them. Their rich variety and the complexity of their closely intertwined existence were a wonder to behold. Now I know that they are just one way that God shows off the wonders of His imagination and abundance--not even really showing them off, as much as hiding them. A person has to make an effort, go far out of their ordinary way, to see just how great the undersea world is. It's not a place that most of us venture on an everyday basis! And that's pretty unfortunate.
So after all of our discussion at church yesterday, I got thinking about all the ways that the natural world, and science as a whole, display various aspects of God's wonderful creation, and about God Himself. There is nothing you can study where God entirely hides who He is, if you know how to look at it; it shows off His extremely abundant provision, generosity, creativity, and grace. Electricity shows off His abundant provision that we have found how to use by barely harnessing it--though it also is even the very impulse of our nervous systems; sonar is something naturally found in bats, and used in our defense systems; solar energy is used by almost every plant, and inadequately harnessed by humanity; geothermal energy maintains a certain warmth in our soil and atmosphere, and we have barely scratched the surface of how to harness it; the orderliness of mathematics is evident in botany, music, anatomy, astronomy, anatomy; the orderliness and complexity of chemistry is constantly in use in everything we touch see, and smell, and things we can't touch or see, and we see how it is used by mankind in manufacturing and medicine, but also in our everyday cooking and cleaning. There is the wonder of anatomy, most exquisitely expressed in the structure of the eye, and the division of the cell. In fact, even as I was an unbeliever, when cell division was explained to me in college by an unbelieving professor, I remember becoming very conscious of the fact that there had to be a God to orchestrate cell division throughout the earth. I could go on forever about how His creation manifests His glory, in as many ways as there are types of science and ways that they interact and show wonderful complexity and order and abundance.
Then there is the history of mankind, and I could go on about that for days, but the discoveries humanity has made, the inventions, the interactions, the progress of the many people would say that it exhibits the glory of man. It may be true, but if so, that only expresses the glory of the God who created any men who can do any good at all; they can only do so by the strength that God supplies, by the breath He provides for them to breathe, by the inspiration that He instills in their brains and the passion He puts into their hearts.
Even if you look at things that entirely oppose God (and all that I can think of are bound up in the human heart), it still shows His glory, because He has given sinners a wonderfully created body to dwell in, and grace to live one more day, to breathe one more breath...even while they oppose Him with all their strength. He gives them sunshine to warm them, the dark of night to cool them and give them rest, the glory of His creation to draw them to Him, food to feed them...and yet so many still oppose Him and ignore the fact that He is the source of every good and perfect gift. But as long as they draw breath, they give Him glory, in that they show His generosity in letting them live when He could so easily take them out of this world in such a variety of ways.
And so that funny little chiton that Pastor Ken got me thinking. Everyone should be excited by the beauty of that funny little animal, and the manifold wonders of the loving, creative God who put it there.

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