For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“Complexity ever in the eye of its beholders, the animal with the most genes — about 31,000 — is the near-microscopic freshwater crustacean Daphnia pulex, or water flea.”– Indiana University scientific journal
A water flea is the creature that God chose to give the most amount of genes to?
Amazing. I can hardly imagine why God would do this. What of the water flea? Does the flea help save many other flea lives? Does it shine brighter than all the other sea creatures, or make lots of flea money and live in a big flea house with lots of flea children?
After it dies, does anyone grieve over the loss of the flea?
“Daphnia’s high gene number is largely because its genes are multiplying, by creating copies at a higher rate than other species,” said project leader and IU genomics director John Colbourne. “We estimate a rate that is three times greater than those of other invertebrates and 30 percent greater than that of humans.”
Incredible. As humans, we often believe that we are the center of the universe. The apple of our mother’s eye, the other half of our lover, the manager of our employees, the leader of our families…we love to feel loved and need to feel needed. We love to remind ourselves that God made us in His own image (Gen. 1:27), and made our bodies a temple for the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:7).
We know that God craves intimacy with us, and created us for his own glory (Isa. 43:7). We were not made for our own amusement or splendor. Our genes make us creatures that are much larger than the flea. And yet, as the flea plays its role in life, are we dutifully playing ours?
I bet the flea never pleads to God for favors of grace. It doesn’t need to, because it just falls into place. I bet the flea never begs God for a miracle, a new set of plastic boobs, or a job raise. The flea lives, the flea dies. And God gave the flea a body so complex, that we humans can hardly understand why.
But the flea didn’t get a spirit such as ours. The flea didn’t get a soul. The flea didn’t get a free will, that would choose to accept or deny its creator. The flea doesn’t have the chance to become a new creation, and spend eternity with the Most High.
In the face of a flea, with all its little genes, I almost don’t feel so magnificant. In the face of my own sin, I don’t feel deserving at all. But perhaps, God never intended me to.
My prayers have been selfish. Thoughts of future loneliness have kept me awake at night. Thoughts of aging, wrinkles and dark circles have haunted me since I turned 18. I constantly have thoughts of fear concerning car crashes, family illnesses, going into debt, failing at my career, never having children…and the list goes on.
I worry about haircuts and vacations and keeping up with the latest nail colors. I spend evenings praying that God will heal my broken heart and make me feel worthy of His grace. I beg for wisdom, a husband and comfort.
Being a journalist doesn’t help with these fears and focuses on the future. Sometimes my work fuels them. This week alone I’ve covered three car accidents after hearing “ten zeros” over the radio, the call code for fatalities on the road. This led me into a dark 48-hours praying that God would spare me from such a fate because, I thought, I have so much more to accomplish in life.
Just when my fear began to strangle me…I met Steve. I was asked to do a story on him for the newspaper. He’s a fruits and vegetable vendor, who travels from door to door selling produce. When I interviewed him I learned that he is 60 years old, was raised on a farm, and has been in the food industry his whole life. He used to be a berry specialist in Chicago.
I also learned that he is single, lonely, barely making enough money to live, has no children, a business that is failing because of the organic stores like Whole Foods, and he loves Jesus.
He said he is at the end of his rope, but he still wants to give people healthy foods to care for their bodies.
“I just want to help more people,” Steve said. “Because we are all children of God.”
“Help more people?!” I thought. “You have nothing! Nothing!”
Steve had such sad, sincere eyes. Looking at him, with his pressed sports coat and his hair slicked down, dressed sharp for our interview…my heart just ached. I started to pray, Oh Lord help him! He is so alone! Father give him a wife, a life! I was so distraught. I cried in my office for a half hour after he left. I had forgotten what true despair looked like.
I told my boss how sad it was. She said: “Don’t worry. You’ll get a thick skin soon enough.”
“I don’t want a thick skin,” I thought.
I don’t want a thick skin if it means fewer tears and feeling less.
After meeting Steve I felt angry at the world, disappointed in mankind that anyone would let such a sweet man drift away into the abyss of solitude. How dare an honest man not be blessed with a fruitful business!
I also felt a maddening amount of guilt. I worry about being alone, when here is a man who is truly alone and yet loves the Lord and has entrusted his future to Him. Perhaps I should not have worried so much for Steve…perhaps in spite of his destitution, he has got his priorities straight. He may be lonely and poor, but he has Eternity with God. Maybe this means I need to stop praying selfish prayers, and that if I were to focus on myself, it should be to focus on my own eternity.
An Iraqi friend of mine recently told me, “I hope someday we can see each other in a free world.” And I know what he means. He will probably never see life outside of Iraq. Borders, wars and visas limit his freedom. Money, family and work limit his pleasure. It is no life to envy. There is no peace for him.
Lest I think myself too far gone, I am reminded of the state of the world. It is a sad, lonely place where the only thing that comes close to bringing comfort and joy is the light beaming from Lord Jesus.
I’m not sure what this measly blog post is supposed to do for lonesome Steve or poor Iraqi friends. I think I’m trying to get God’s attention. I certainly hope I got yours.
“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27
It hardly seems like I lived through this year. I finished college, studied in Korea, worked in Iraq, lived in Los Angeles and now I am a full-time reporter.
A lot was felt in 12 months. There was the short-lived stress of tests, the intensity of a new culture, the escape and betrayal abroad, the sabbatical that nearly drove me insane (but instead made me whole), the emotions, the frustrations… The life of the traveler is never easy. It is simple to hop on planes, smile and tell stories of your adventures. What’s hard is when you stop moving for more than two minutes and find that even though you’re 3,000 miles away from your last destination, your questions about life won’t ever leave you.
I have a lot to be thankful for. On more than one occasion this year, I could have lost my mind, or worse, my life. But I didn’t, and God is gracious enough to grant me one more day.
I now resolve to never make new year’s resolutions, only daily ones. Life isn’t about a year of accomplishments or failures, it’s about each moment in every unique day.
Moments of my year, in photos:
I had to repost these photos, taken by Joshua Gigliotti, because I have alluded to Pavial and told his story on this blog many times, in different allusions.
From the words of Josh:
“This is Pavial.
This little guy easily won your heart, for as a gypsy, he was a social outcast and often aggressively chased from any store or home he would roam to. Pavial learned of our acceptance of him early on and would often frequent our home (at times, letting himself in on his own) and play with us. He seems to suffer from a certain development issue, though what exactly it is eluded us. The neighbors vowed to Allah he is 18, though his mannerisms would suggest he’s not a day older than 10. Oh how I miss little Pavial…”
Looking at these photos is almost too sad for my heart to bare. For more on Pavial’s story, see here and scroll to the bottom.
Months ago, I wanted to visit a slum. I asked my friend, The Photographer, to join me.
I said: “We must go. I must see this slum.”
I thought: “I want to save these people. I want to see this slum. What a wonderful experience this will be.”
The Photographer said: “Ok. I’ll go. But I’m not going to take pictures.”
I knew what he meant. The slum wasn’t a spectacle. And yet, I still wanted to capture it. I still wanted to see it, sensationalize it, blog about it. I wanted to help the people, this is true. Yet, much of seeing the slum was about me and my desire to save them.
That was selfish. This means something to me now.