From the Dust

From the Dust

Whoever really has considered the lilies of the field or the birds of the air and pondered the improbability of their existence in this warm world within the cold and empty stellar distances will hardly balk at the turning of water into wine - which was, after all, a very small miracle. We forget the greater and still continuing miracle by which water (with soil and sunlight) is turned into grapes.
— Wendell Berry

My wife has been doing a lot of gardening lately, flowers and herbs mostly. Our plan is to venture into the realm of vegetables soon, and the process of watching living things grow out of soil has been an absolutely worship-inducing experience for me.

There's one spectacle in particular that has been especially gratifying. My wife planted a few seeds of basil in a small metal pot by the window, and for a long time it looked as if nothing was happening, but one day, a few sprouts started making their way through the surface of the soil, and then leaves appeared on the sprouts, and then more sprouts and more leaves, and day by day, more and more life miraculously sprung from the dirt.

Every particle of rock or water or air has God by its side leading it the way it should go. How else would it know where to go or what to do?
— John Muir

I've never been able to enjoy the growth of plants in such an intimate way, watching them flourish in my home like little children from the soil, enjoying their simple beauty and growth, excited to come back each day to see their progress. It's striking how weak and vulnerable they are, and how the dirt itself seems so unforgiving and lifeless. And yet, vibrant green comes forth from a dark and barren landscape. It's breathtaking to think that every tiny seed contains its own DNA telling it how fast to grow and what to become and what fruit to bear. The mechanics of it are so microscopic that it seems almost like observing magic over a long period of time. And aside from providing water to the plant for growth, there is a sense in which we are powerless to produce any kind of progress. To know that I have no control over whether or not the seeds will grow moves me to awe just as effectively as when I look up at the firmament. The growth process of flora truly does move me to worship, for surely God has designed it with impeccable elegance, and tirelessly carries it out in every blade of grass, every flower, every tree, every head of grain, and every fern in every forest in all the world.

I've also been filled with wonder and awe at the fact that the whole earth is filled with these testaments to God's creativity and intelligent design, in greater number than the grains of sand on every shore of every ocean. Imagine the vast diversity; every species and genus, every variant and mutation, many of which having specific purposes in the food chain or ecosystem, and many plants having no real utility other than the fact that they are pleasing to the human eye, and point to a joyful and imaginative Designer who delights in his work, creates things merely for our enjoyment.

One of my favorite parts of the bible narrative is that the first thing God did was make a garden. And he filled it with plants and animals and all kinds of proofs of his creativity. Adam, in like manner, was brought forth from the soil, molded out of the dirt. Even his name is closely related to "adamah" the Hebrew word for soil or earth. In some ways, we are fellow children with the flowers and the trees; from dust we were brought forth, and to dust we'll return. Even scripture compares man to the grass of the field and the flower, which is here today but withers and falls tomorrow. We too are fragile, weak, and transient.

We too are brought forth from the earth, molded as pots from the clay, formed by the Potter for the purpose of displaying his skill and craftsmanship. Each one of us, unique combinations of characteristics, while still sharing the same basic blueprint.

It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.
— G.K. Chesterton

I love G.K. Chesterton's quote about God's eternal appetite for repetition. He posits that we only grow tired of repetition as we grow older, and if we had remained as we were in the garden, untainted by sin, we too would be endlessly excited by the simplest beauty. It may be that God still delights in making every flower, every blade of grass, every tree, and never grows tired of watching them grow from dirt into the thing he has designed them to be. He is faithful to bring out the sun day by day to cast its light, and to bring out the clouds in the sky to pour forth water on all his living things. He is not merely faithful out of a sense of duty, but Proverbs 8 says that the creation of the world was accompanied by a chorus, when all the stars sang together for joy. So perhaps God continues to rejoice in showing kindness to his creation by sustaining and nurturing life.

And perhaps, even more than flowers and trees, God delights to make people. Psalm 139 says he forms our parts by hand, and knits us together in the womb, so perhaps he is even more intimately concerned with making us than he is with the grass and the flowers. Jesus said that he knows when a sparrow falls to the ground, and aren't we of much more value than many sparrows?

And yet he does not create us individually unique so that we can marvel at our own glory, but at his. He does not labor over the intricacies of our inner being and hold together every molecule by the word of his power so that we would merely admire our own intelligence, but he does all of this to put is own creative intelligence on display for us to marvel at. God created us in such a way that we are most satisfied, not when we look to ourselves for ultimate enjoyment, but when we look outside of ourselves, and enjoy things that are not us.

What a beautiful and joyful God he must be, to tirelessly delight in miraculously bringing forth every particle of every good thing we enjoy, and to give us eyes to behold the glory of his work so that we can enjoy him through it. He does not create us for drudgery, but for wonder and amazement. His design is for us to marvel at tiny miracles, and we must regain the eyes to see them.

Outdoors we are confronted everywhere with wonders; we see that the miraculous is not extraordinary but the common mode of existence.
— Wendell Berry
A Treatise on Craftsmanship

A Treatise on Craftsmanship

Intentionally Analog

Intentionally Analog

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