Following the sad passing of Ravi Zacharias, we will be sharing some of our favourite essays from A Slice of Infinity written by Ravi over the years.
Some time ago I had the privilege to speak at a conference at Johns Hopkins University on the theme “What Does It Mean to Be Human?” Before my address, Francis Collins, the director of the Human Genome Project and the co-mapper of human DNA, presented his talk. He spoke of the intelligibility and marvel of the book of life, filled with more than three billion bits of information. In a strange way, he became both the subject and the object of his study, both the designer and the design of his research. Extraordinary thoughts swarmed within me as I listened, virtually tuning in and out of the talk in order to reflect on the wonder of it all.
In his last slide, he showed two pictures side by side. On the left appeared a magnificent photo of the stained-glass rose window from York Minster Cathedral in Yorkshire, its symmetry radiating from the centre, its colours and geometric patterns spectacular—clearly a work of art purposefully designed by a gifted artist. Its sheer beauty stirred the mind. On the right side of the screen appeared a slide showing a cross section of a strand of human DNA. The picture did more than take away one’s breath; it was awesome in the profoundest sense of the term—not just beautiful, but overwhelming. And it almost mirrored the pattern of the rose window in York Minster. The intricacy of the DNA’s design, which pointed to the Transcendent One, astonished those who are themselves the design and who have been created semi-transcendent by design. We see ourselves only partially, but through our Creator’s eyes, we see our transcendence. In looking at our own DNA, the subject and the object came together.
The audience gasped at the sight, for it saw itself. The design, the colour, the splendour of the design left everyone speechless, even though it is this very design that makes us capable of speech. Because of this design we can think in profound ways, but we felt paralysed by the thought and could go no further. Because of that design we remained trapped in time but were momentarily lifted to the eternal. Because of that design we were capable of love and suddenly could see the loveliness of who we are.
We can map out the human genome and in it see the evidence of a great Cartographer. We can plan and now see a great Planner. We can sing and now see poetry in matter. We speculate and see the intricacies of purpose. We live, seeing the blueprint of life. And we die, but we can look through the keyhole of life.
At Johns Hopkins that day we saw the handiwork of the One who made us for himself—and when we grasp its splendour, we find the greatest joy of all to be the truth that every thread matters and contributes to the adornment of the bride of the One who became flesh for us and dwelt among us.
The day that each person willingly accepts himself or herself for who he or she is and acknowledges the uniqueness of God’s framing process marks the beginning of a journey to seeing the handiwork of God in each life. Trying to mirror someone else’s accomplishments is one thing. Trying to be someone else in distinctive capacity is unhealthy and breeds insatiable hungers. Not everyone is a Bach or an Einstein. But there is splendour in the ordinary. The mother who made the lifebelt is worthy of recognition equal to Bach. Her labour of love is as unique as discovering E=MC2, Einstein’s famous formula. This is why seeing one’s self through God’s grand design is essential to completing the picture for all of creation. We must have a healthy respect for our individuality but also keep a wise distance from it. We have it now, but it is not what we shall be. C. S. Lewis, in his brilliant way, reminds us of this:
“Most of man’s psychological make-up is probably due to his body: when his body dies all that will fall off him, and the real central man, the thing that chose, that made the best or worst of this material, will stand naked. All sorts of nice things which we thought our own, but which were really due to a good digestion, will fall off some of us; all sorts of nasty things which were due to complexities or bad health will fall off others. We shall then for the first time, see every one as he really was. There will be surprises.”
My father-in-law did something utterly unforgettable in the final days of his life. As strength was leaving his body and he could no longer communicate with loved ones, he suddenly opened his eyes and said twice, quietly and clearly, “Amazing! It’s just amazing!” A few hours later, he again stirred, reached out his thin arms to his wife of sixty-two years, and said, “I love you!” Then he let his head drop back on his pillow. Those were his last words. Within twenty-four hours he was gone. That was the end.
Or was it the beginning? When you know the Grand Weaver, it is neither. It was a punctuation mark in the design that he was about to see and enjoy forever.
Accepting and celebrating the thread of your own personality is the first grasp of the Grand Weaver’s design in your life. You are not a number. He knows you by name. Every stage of the process may not look picturesque, but every detail will come into focus and possess its share of beauty.