How Great is our God

Question: do science and religion conflict? Oooh, how’s that juicy can of worms for you? So often we see these two ideologies pitted against each other in some sort of cosmic war. Scientists need practical evidence that God can exist. The religious don’t care about science, because God is bigger than all that. How can both exist in the same world? They both describe truths, so how can they both be correct? Mustn’t we all, in the end, choose one or the other?

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Watching my plant, Brontosaurus, grow gives me life.

I don’t think so. I love science, biology specifically, though I appreciate the other disciplines. And I’m totally committed to my faith. I think science and faith can be reconciled in ways that we just need to take the time to understand. I’m actually really surprised I haven’t written about their intersections before. So. Let’s dive in, shall we?

A lot of the questions seem to revolve around the origin of the universe and evolution.  We ask, how can the Earth be as old as science says it is, or how can evolution be possible, when Genesis says something else? Shouldn’t we trust the Bible, the source of truth? OR, shouldn’t we trust these cold, empirical facts that have been proven countless times? Nothing proves the existence of God, and how can we trust something we don’t have proof in? Now I’m not here to give robust, theologically and scientifically sound answers to these questions simply because I don’t have all of the knowledge necessary to do so. So I’m sorry to introduce those questions and then not answer them. But I still have something to say, as evidenced by the paragraphs of words below this.

I think the funny thing is that both sides have a limited view of God and a puffed up view of human knowledge. On the exclusive faith side, we fall into the trap of thinking we understand the Bible perfectly, that the way we have read it for all of history is the only way it can be read. I’m not saying the Bible isn’t true; I’m saying we need to give ourselves a little less credit and accept that maybe it’s a bit more complicated than the way we picture it, that we cannot understand it fully, that we cannot understand God fully.

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Every time I see Junior, the snail, I fall a bit more in love with the world.

And science has a similar story, saying, “The way we understand the universe is infallible because it matches everything we’ve designed for it to match.” I am reminded of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, where there are aliens (called beasts) who have been blind for all of their history. How do explain the concept of sight to them? We cannot assume that what is objective and proven by our standards is truth because maybe we don’t see the world as it purely and objectively is. And we cannot assume that we can explain God using science. We cannot even look to science as a method to prove the existence of God. Nothing can undeniably prove that God exists. Everything in life merely points to His presence, and we choose whether to accept this evidence or not. It’s not called faith for nothing. Again, I’m not saying that science isn’t good or trustworthy or useful, but we need to look beyond just ourselves.

But Brianna, you say, why would you say something so frustrating?? Why can’t our perception be infallible?? Why can’t we explain God and the universe with our own means??  I get the frustration, really, I do.

As with most things, I really wish that I totally understood God. So it’s disappointing when I just can’t wrap my mind around the concept of the Trinity, how Jesus can be both fully God and fully man at the same time, or even the concept of eternity. Those are difficult concepts! And I struggle with these, wishing I could just understand when I realize that by doing so I’m attempting to put God in a box. Who am I that I think I can understand God? The God who created the universe and laughter and spiderwebs, who knows every cell in my body and every place my feet have touched, who knows every single person in the same way. I think about that, and I realize how silly and small I am to be doing this. Not that we shouldn’t wrestle with hard questions, because hard questions are good. But I think there’s a lot of peace to knowing that we will never be able to wrap our minds around a supreme and holy God. Let God be as big and mystifying as He is, and just worship Him for that.

B subtilis

Don’t get me started on how spectacularly amazing bacteria are.

In my own experience, studying science has done nothing but increase my faith in and awe of God. In my biology classes, I learn about the machinery necessary for
making new cells, machinery so specific it blows my mind. I learn about how robust our bodies are at fighting diseases and keeping cancer at bay. I learn about microscopic creatures that can do so many amazing things, and we haven’t even discovered all of them yet! And God created all of that! It’s incredible! I look under the microscope, and I see the beauty of creation, the wonder of life. Just the other day, I was sitting in my dorm room and thinking about how God knows every single particle in my dorm room, how I don’t have a concept of how many particles that is, and that’s only for a tiny room in the city of Williamsburg, in the state of Virginia, in the United States, on the Earth, in our Solar System, in the universe. Just….wow. There are no words.

Help my Unbelief

So I talk a lot about the fact that I am a Christian on my blog, but I haven’t talked much about my experience as a Christian or about God. And I think it’s time to change that. And for me, at least right now, that goes hand in hand with a story about my semester.

So, it’s September of this year, right? (Not right now, I’m using this as a way to tell my story.) And I’m at school, I’m an RA, I’m taking cool classes, I’m a small group leader. Everything’s going great. And I go to this worship thing that was part of a prayer event on campus. I didn’t stay long, and I don’t remember most of what happened that evening. But I do remember this: I was praying, and something inspired me to say, “God, break me. Break everything that I trust in, so that I can trust in you instead.” And then, you know, I left soon after that. And I don’t remember when I started noticing the consequences of that prayer, but boy, did they come.

One of the smaller issues was waking up in the morning. I’ve always been very good about hearing my alarm and getting out of bed in a decent amount of time. I started sleeping through my alarms, even after I made them as loud as possible. And this wasn’t a big deal, but it did raise some questions about my health and whatnot. I think I’m just sleep deprived. Even this morning, I woke up 15 minutes before my alarm was supposed to go off and then fell back into a deep enough sleep that I didn’t even hear my alarms go off. So that’s an interesting issue, and we’ll see what happens next.

My freshman dorm.

My freshman dorm. 

A bigger issue was loneliness. I went from having the great freshman dorm experience, with all of my best friends living just down the hall to living in a single for the first time in my life really, with my friends scattered across campus and even off campus. And that didn’t bother me for a while, but then it started becoming a problem. I felt so isolated in the room I have to myself. I don’t usually mind eating alone, but I felt like it was becoming a habit, a habit that I didn’t enjoy. One night was so bad that I just flung myself on the floor and cried. Soon after that, I went to the campus Counseling Center because I wanted to figure out if I have a form of social anxiety or not. And the counselor I talked to said to me, “Well it sounds like belonging is your real issue here.” And I know belonging is an issue for me. I’ve written about it. But to hear it from someone else’s words… It was an emotional time.

But I’m okay now, and I still don’t know exactly what has changed. I think it’s probably a lot of small things, like talking to people more and being more intentional with my faith. I think a good part of it is that I’m going more out of my way to help my friends. And maybe they have more problems, maybe it just feels more out of the way, or maybe I’ve just taken this role on. But I love it. I love being able to serve them and love them. And I’m not saying that to make myself look good. I’m just in a position to care for people right now. One day, I’ll need them to care for me. And that’s okay. And I tell them to let me know if they’re not doing well, which makes me reflect on my own actions this semester. Because in the depths of my loneliness, I wanted people to just know I was having problems and come help me, but that’s ridiculous. So I’m trying to get better about telling people when I have problems the way I ask them to tell me.

More recently, I’ve had issues with academics. Organic Chemistry II is really hard, guys. I thought I was going to do well because I’m good at memorizing. But everything looks the same, and I did not do well keeping on track of things at the beginning of the semester. And now my grades are starting to show. Just the other week, I got a midterm back. It was embarrassing how terribly I did. Really. And I don’t want to write that on this blog that so many of my friends and a good number of strangers will see. But I want to be honest, and that’s the honest truth. I’m ashamed, really. And when I got my grade back, I felt like a failure. I questioned my career goals and my abilities as a student and so much in my life.

So I got that grade back two Fridays ago, right? And I was still feeling pretty down about it at the beginning of last week. And then came Wednesday. I have small group on Wednesday, the small group that I lead. And that has also been an interesting story because for several weeks at the beginning of the year, I didn’t have anyone coming to my weekly Bible studies. And that was discouraging, and it made me question whether I should have been doing it in the first place and whatnot. And then people started coming. Last week, I had four people. And we had an awesome discussion. Really, it was so good. And I was grinning afterwards, because it made me that happy. Two of the girls actually texted me and told me that it was great. And it’s not because of me. They’re all just really comfortable with each other, so conversation comes easily, and they’re not afraid to share about their lives.

And now I’m finally bringing this story back to God. Because it was God that did this good work. It was God who was with me when I picked out the passage, where a father says to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!” It was God who brought each of those girls that night and inspired conversation. It was God who was faithful. God took this thing that wasn’t working and showed me that20150626_195502 He can make something beautiful out of it. When my life is going well, it’s because God made it that way. And when my life isn’t going well, I can still point to His faithfulness throughout my life. I can say, “Well, Orgo isn’t going well, and I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen with it. But God was faithful with small group and in so many other parts of my life, so He will be faithful with Orgo. He will put me where I need to be.” And there will be days when I doubt. There will be days when faith isn’t easy. There will be days when I try to find security in my abilities instead of in the God who provides. There will be days when I say, “God, I don’t understand what you’re doing.” But He is good, and He will bring me through.

Epylle Spydre

A Prayer for the Beloved

I feel like I’ve been surrounded by death recently. On the smaller side of things, last week, my family decided that our guinea pig would be better off not in pain, and we put her down. Then on Monday, we heard news of the third suicide at my college this year. And today, we cry with the family and friends of the 32 people at Virginia Tech who were killed in 2007. It’s also Holocaust Remembrance Day, so there’s that.

I never met Paul Soutter, the young man who committed suicide, but I’ve been to his high school, and I saw him in two shows this year. After the second show, I would recognize him in the dining halls by his bright, strawberry blonde hair. And that’s the closest I’ve been to someone who committed suicide, and I earnestly hope that is the closest I ever get. Since his death, there has been a campus wide discussion about stress, mental health, and suicide. And it’s good that we’re having this discussion. It’s just sad that it took 3 suicides in a year for us to get this desperate and really start talking about it. And I’ve been watching on, not sure what to say or do. I’m not an expert on anything but I will tell you what I do know.

Hello, darling. Hello, beautiful. To whoever is reading this, you are worth so much. Please don’t ever think that you can’t do anything in the world or that no one appreciates your presence. You are a work of art, a breathing poem. And that’s not that you merely have the potential be a work of art if you work harder or do more good deeds or whatever. You are beautiful and precious and incredible right now. Yes, it’s true, you can become so much. And I hope to see the even more gorgeous, accomplished person you become. But you don’t need that to affirm your worth. You don’t need to get certain grades or hold a certain number of leadership positions or be recognized to be worth the time of those around you. You have passions and pet peeves and talents and things you can’t stand to talk about, and that is so wonderful. You are wonderful. You are unique, and you are beautiful. You are not alone. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to feel pain. You are precious and loved and so, so worth it.

Even without knowing the people who have taken their own lives, I am struck by all the pain there is. The pain they must have felt. The pain their friends and family and acquaintances feel, especially for these people. Because I know that if I was in that position, my automatic emotional response would be that of intense regret at not having done something to change the outcome. But it’s not your fault. Please, please do not blame yourself. And I know that’s super hypocritical of me to say, but maybe if I’m ever in your position, you’ll be able to tell me that too. And in response to all the pain, I’m going to do something that I don’t think I’ve ever done on my blog before. I’m going to write my prayer.

God, I pray for everyone who feels like they are overwhelmed by life right now, who feel in bondage. Bondage to a mental health disorder or to the stress of school or to their regrets or family problems. You see these people. You know them intimately, far more than I can ever know them. And you love them.
I know you are a God who heals. You love to see your little children unrestrained by pain and loss, living in the freedom that you so generously give us. You don’t get rid of pain altogether, and we don’t always know why. Maybe because sometimes it’s healthy to acknowledge pain. Maybe sometimes we need to see you work through our pain.  But you do heal. I’ve seen it before, and I am confident I will see it many more times before I die. I have faith in that. God, heal someone, even if it’s a small healing, just letting someone know they’re not alone or affirming their worth; move today. Even to the people who feel like they’re okay or that they’ve got everything figured out. You see their hidden pains, the ones they repress and ignore. Encourage your children and show them that you are the Father who Loves, freely and perfectly. Thank you that you are so much bigger than us and that you put us in the right place at the right time, even if we do not understand. There is so much pain in the world, today and every day, but you are bigger than the pain. Amen. 

20140802_132201“Are not 5 sparrows sold for 2 pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs on your head are numbered. Do not be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows.” – Luke  12:6-7

p.s. If you’d like individual prayer or just want to talk about essentially anything, please, please, please let me know!

What We Should be Doing Instead of Yelling at Each Other

So there’s thing that’s been in the news recently (at least it has been in Virginia) called same-sex marriage. And for the longest time I’ve been decidedly torn on the issue. I’ve known that I love the people themselves, but I wasn’t sure about the topic of marriage. I can’t help but see both sides of the debate, but I guess that’s better than screaming at the people on the other side for not agreeing with me. And I think that (the screaming, that is) is part of the problem. Actually, it’s a big part of the problem. People are so stuck in their ways, unwilling to listen to the other side and make a compromise. Well, compromise is my middle name, so here goes.

So on the one side you have the “progressives” who say, among other things, that committed monogamous relationships between two people, regardless of their sex, is better than many of the abominations in marriage we see today that are still legal.

On the other side of the issue are the “traditionalists” who state (on the grounds of religion mostly) that marriage should be between one man and one woman and that’s it. As a committed Christian myself, I can’t deny seeing the truth of that statement. Marriage was made to be between one man and one woman for life. Anything less than that is simply not what God, as our loving Lord and Savior, intended for us. 

But look around you. Where is there anything or anyone that is functioning exactly the way God intended for us? The point that gets lost in translation in this argument, this war of words, is that no one is a sinner on the mere grounds that they are gay. No, we are sinners because we are human. It’s a part of our nature. We have all sinned, you, me, and everyone, and none of us are perfect. People just make a big deal about homosexuality, but they could very well be making a fuss about lying or stealing. I think it’s a shame that we spend so much energy arguing about this issue instead of preaching the Gospel. 

Maybe instead of condemning people to hell through our hatred of their “outrageous sin,” we can love them anyway and invite them to join us in heaven. What does condemnation do? Absolutely nothing. Zilch. It just creates an even larger barrier between us and people who desperately need God’s hand of love. This is not to be confused with conviction. Conviction leads to repentance and is based on love, but condemnation just creates hate. Think of conviction like me telling a friend that she can’t just eat junk food all the time. I tell her this because I know there’s something better for her, and I tell her in a way that makes that simple fact clear to her. 

Marriage, at least in the US, is not a religious matter. It’s a legal matter. And I can totally see how people can feel like second-class citizens just because they’re denied this right. Arguing about the morality of same-sex marriage is not going to change who’s gay and who’s not. It’s not going to change how many people enter into all sorts of broken marriages that are destined to fail. The only thing it’s going to change is the perception the world has of Christians. And that perception is not going to be pretty. 

I shall close with this last thought, written by Russell Moore in a Christianity Today article titled “What Did the Supreme Court Really Change Today?”. I could never hope to say this in a better way, so I leave you with his words: “It’s a time for forgiven sinners, like us, to do what the people of Christ have always done. It’s time for us to point beyond our family values and our culture wars to the cross of Christ as we say: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.'”

ImageEpylle Spydre

Flesh and Blood

At some point in our lives, we will be naked. No, I’m not talking about being physically naked. Rather, we will be emotionally naked. We will be brought to a place of utter vulnerability, with nothing to cover our fears, our lies, our pain. 

And most of the world will see that nakedness, and they will turn away. They will see you for everything you are and turn away. They will be embarrassed or ashamed of your exposure, saying, “It’s not my place to see you in that way.” 

But the one who sees your nakedness and instead of turning away, opens their arms to embrace you, that is the one who truly loves you. Because, whether you opened yourself willingly or had the brutal truth wrenched from your soul, your deepest desire is for someone to help you. Your deepest desire is for someone, anyone, to look beyond the grimy interior that is now your exterior, and see you as you. And when someone sees the utter depths of your soul and chooses to see you as a person, just like them, you know that you are loved. 

It is because of our own fallen nature that we have to clothe ourselves (both literally and figuratively). In reality, we were created to be in that constant position of openness, where we don’t have to hide who we are or what we’ve done, because it’s all beautiful. And now, we know we are not perfect, but we just want somebody to see the beauty amidst all the ugliness. It takes a special kind of love to see that. But it is out there, the true picture of love in this world, the closest that humanity can come to God’s perfect love. 

Epylle Spydre

p.s. A great thank you to David Latiff for writing a wonderful poem that was the catalyst that inspired this post. 

 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: …when you see the naked to clothe him and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”-Isaiah 58:7 

A Light in the Darkness

I realized that I’ve talked a lot about the good things of humanity: our desire to create art, our ability to love, and many others. But I haven’t talked much on the darkness in humanity. Because, to put it quite plain, we aren’t perfect.

Yesterday, I cried. I cried when I heard the news of the terrible, awful shooting in Connecticut. I’m sure you’ve heard it, and if you’re like me, you probably cried, too. And now, as I browse through my news feed on facebook, I see lots of people with honest emotions about the situation. But some of them bother me. “That man who did that was a monster and nothing less!” I disagree with that. He was a human being, a person. I’m not trying to make an excuse for what he did; it blows my mind how somebody could put it in their heart to do such a thing. But he’s still a person. 

In this situation, there are a lot of people to pity: the children who died, their families, the other people who died, their families, the children who survived that will be traumatized by this. Nobody seems to think of the gunman himself. I cannot imagine what it’s like to be in such a state of desperation and hopeless that would make it okay to do a thing like that. I pity him. But he’s still a person.

People think they’re invincible, that even though bad things may happen to them, humanity on the whole is pretty good. We make masks for ourselves to pretend that everything’s all right. But situations like this make us realize how truly BROKEN humanity is. How broken WE are. But we try to make people live up to our expectations. And often, those expectations are of perfection. That’s why we judge people so easily. I mean, that’s what people did of this man. We judged him by the one bad deed we had heard of but didn’t try to see the world from his point of view. (Once again, I’m not trying to make an excuse for him; I’m just trying to create an easy illustration.) But we also fall prey to the expectations of perfection. We give ourselves to everyone’s image of perfection and when we look  in the mirror, we don’t even recognize ourselves. 

Now I’m feeling dreary. Where’s the solution?!? Is there an answer?!? How do we escape from this dark destiny we’ve created for ourselves?!? 

Personally, I have hope. Because I’ve been loved and saved by God, I know that there is a brighter future for us and that Christ already gave the solution. I know a lot of people don’t have that hope. And I pray for them. I pray for you, whoever you are, because we can always be blessed by God, whether we’re saved or not. 

Thank you,

Epylle Spydre

The Hurt and the Healer

I told you I would write a legitimate post later today, so here I am!

If you are friends with me on facebook, you probably know that I’ve been asking people for topics to blog about. I want to blog about stuff that people want to read, so it makes sense for me to ask this, yes? I think so, too. Yesterday, I got key lime pie, and today, I have a couple things, including infant and mother mortality rates in the US despite our large health care systems.

I could bore you with numbers, but I recently read a book called Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. It was an interesting book and one of the things that I learned from it was that numbers make people put their analyzing hat on instead of their empathizing hat. So, if I want to make you care about infants and mothers that are dying, I’m not going to tell you how many infants out of 1,000 will die in a year but I am instead going to give you a picture.

You and your best friend like to do everything together, including getting pregnant at the same time. You’re so excited about the future, because you’re sure that your kids will be the best of friends, just like you guys are. Your dream is beautiful, and it most definitely ends with “And they all lived happily ever after.” Finally, the days are drawing closer, and you go into labor before your friend. On the other end of all the pain, blood, and tears that I’ve heard accompany births—haven’t actually experienced this myself, as I am only 16—is a beautiful baby boy. With big, blue eyes and a smile that would warm even Voldemort’s heart, he is all you could ever dream of having. You are so excited to see your friend, who must have gone into labor by now, when your husband comes into tell you something: your friend lost the baby. The doctors tried all they could, but they couldn’t save the baby.

It’s unfair, isn’t it? Even though “you” didn’t have the baby, you can sense the injustice of this situation. One friend comes out of the hospital with a bouncing, smiling, laughing, extremely happy baby, and the other leaves with only tears and a broken heart. You really wish she could have a baby too, but you can’t change anything now. What happened to “happily ever after”?

(By the way, this story is completely made up from my imagination and doesn’t represent any statistics, although it’s probably happened before.)

So. Our illustrious health system can’t save the babies. Not that all infants die, that would be really awful, and there would be a whole lot more people blogging about it. But we aren’t as strong as we hoped we were, as a country, that is.

Personally, I’m just thankful that we have a God that saves and heals and works miracles every day. There are so many hurting people out there. I just watched “The Dark Knight”, the second movie in the Batman trilogy, last night. Two-Face is in so much pain, he’s so bitter, and he’s just trying to make himself feel better. Now I haven’t watched “The Dark Knight Rises” yet (yes, it’s on my to-do list), but I have this feeling that Two-Face will just continue being bitter, and nothing will be able to truly heal his heart. It’s like in The Tale of Despereaux, where they talk about how broken hearts never come back quite right.

But God sees our hurts and pains. God wants to bring us to His side and heal our aching hearts and bodies. And when we are in pain, God isn’t punishing us, the way we tend to think. As the song goes, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Sometimes pain is just here so that we can be tested and remember who the Healer is.

Epylle Spydre

p.s. I got the title name from MercyMe’s song, “The Hurt and the Healer”. I tried several times to put a video on here, but it didn’t work. But you should still listen to it, ’cause it’s a great song!