All the World's a Classroom
The phrase ‘delicate power’ might as well be an oxymoron. Humanity only knows of a certain kind of power; one that is closely associated with force, one that accomplishes a specific function and has the ability to override the hindering factors. The threatening nature of power is what makes it, well, powerful, and this model is what we generally follow when we try to create circumstances that would garner power to ourselves against others.
Yet, when we look at nature, we find another model of power that is complete, harmonious, and considerate. Nature models a type of power that can co-exist with delicate things and delicate beings, and this is what convinces me that God is such a brilliant, ingenious, out-of-this-world, mind-blowing engineer.
If you have any bit of interest in the marine life, you know that the moon practically governs this underwater universe that covers more than 70% of the surface of the earth. Its cycle directly influences the tidal forces of seas and oceans, dictating the rhythm of life of billions and trillions of living creatures. When you and I go to sleep at night, these creatures wake up and with the currents in the depths of the water, travel upward to search for food, mate, and live, and a whole bio-dynamics take place in pitch darkness. Many of these night creatures are the transparent ones, oddly shaped, electrified, and bioluminescent; they’re very delicate creatures.
At night, life is busy underwater, the forces at work are strong, yet you and I don’t feel anything or know anything about it. Most days I look at the moon and think, “Oh, that’s nice.” I think of it no more than an accessory for the homogenously dark sky, and everyday it appears in a slightly different shape. Couples stare at full moons or stroll underneath its light, thinking of it as no more than a prop to enhance romantic moods. But this seemingly harmless, innocuous circle in the sky IS the ‘light that rules the night.’
Think of gravity and how it works. This force that keeps us from getting dispersed into space, is so delicate that it took mankind a while to ‘discover’ it. I mean, it’s always been there. Yet it’s so subtly intervolved with our moment by moment experience that most times we don’t even think about it. Yes, we see its evidence, that when we jump we always come back down. But we don’t find ourselves struggling to pick our foot up like it’s being glued to the ground. Nor do we get zapped back to the surface of the earth when we jump like what happens to opposing magnetic poles. Our vertical movements are, on a day to day basis, free.
But this same force governs celestial bodies and their movements. It keeps the earth in its orbit, and it keeps the moon around too. Powerful, but very delicate.
And then you read, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” Rom 1:20. The parallel is marvelous…
One of my favorite things in life is listening to, reading about, meeting and talking with global thinkers. These are people who speak with fire in their eyes, whose passion saturates their words, and whose brains never stop working. They have a source of energy that doesn’t die quickly. They have certain anger and dissatisfaction with the status quo, and want to do something to change it. They’re silly and a little wacky. They have a good sense of humor—a necessary trait, I think, for anyone who attempts to think of problems whose scale is as big as the world; if they don’t have this sense of humor, they’d go insane or turn bitter very quickly. This passion that has struck a cord deep inside their soul just emanates out of their skin and they can’t help it. All it takes is one conversation, a few sentences, and you just see them take off. What a delight!
These global thinkers, the real ones at least, are engaged in some small scale, local projects. They pursue their interests, always widening their experiences and skill sets, and most likely hold a regular day job as well, just like everybody else. On a day to day basis, they may not be working on some big, glamorous, or prestigious projects – in fact, their work may be quite mundane. But there’s a difference, because those mundane tasks are infused with a sense of purpose. They see their local, small scale activities as laboratories to test and refine their models and ideas, with a wider sphere of influence in mind.
The most amusing trait that I love about these people is that they’re unabashedly them. They’re weird, and they don’t care. They embrace their individuality and their gifts fully, so even though you can get a group of global thinkers in a room, each of them is distinctly different one from another. The nerds are unabashedly nerdy; the artists are unabashedly artistic, etc. They know how to focus in their areas, because those who try to multitask and juggle multiple global problems usually end up overwhelmed and not doing anything. They take care of that one circle really well and they get something accomplished. This boosts their morale and makes them think they can do more. The circle then expands a little bit. They get another triumph, and they get even more excited. Bit by bit they advance, and call them delusional or crazy, but they actually think they can change the world: they have proof that it’s possible.
We have a lot of these people in society. Go to TED.com and you’ll find a bunch of them there. But they’re not just on stage; these people really are everywhere. Oh and one more thing with this group of people—age is irrelevant.
When you combine global thinkers and the properties of the complexly connected world today, what you have is a potentially explosive combination. In an era where problems, issues, ideas, and cultural attributes cross national borders, the notion that a country’s problems can be exclusively confined within its geographical boundaries slowly disappears. Neighboring states get entangled almost immediately, and the problems magnify. On the flip side, however, this phenomenon also opens up opportunities of global impact because just as the problems cannot be contained in a geographical place, the solutions can spread out quickly as well. In an article for a recent publication by the Indonesian embassy, I wrote the following statements concerning the energy issues, which I believe is applicable for anyone and to any problem, “Because of the effective nature of the current communication network, a local or national solution to the energy problem contributes directly to the international portfolio of energy solutions. If and when Indonesia has found and implemented a successful approach within its borders, it immediately provides an adaptable model for other countries and communities. In other words, the endeavor to solve the local energy problem is an opportunity for global leadership.”
What this means is that as a citizen of this kind of world, making global impact is a real possibility. In fact, I think this mindset is no longer optional. Global thinkers are not born; the potential exists in every individual.
Global problems require global thinkers. Why? Because in problem solving, the solution can only be (at most) as good as your assumptions. The only way to reach the solution to these problems is if the proper scope and scale is taken into account, and the ones who can do that are the global thinkers.
To the Christian, there is one global problem that has supreme importance, more than the other ones that exist today. This problem is such that once it’s completed, the aftermath will ultimately solve all of the other problems, namely the renewing of the earth, when the old heaven and earth pass away, and the new heaven and earth are established. The problem statement is written in Matthew 24:14, the charge in Matthew 28:18-20, and again in Revelation 14:6-7 (read verses 6-12 for the whole package). It is what it is—a global mission.
If a 21st century world citizen needs to be a global thinker, there is no excuse for the Christian not to be one. Christians are called to be global thinkers, which mean that there’s something wrong when the only thing they do is to sit by their fire and bask in the comfort their own spirituality. What about the rest of the world?
If this global problem is to be solved, Christians need to think, plan, and strategize in the global scale, because the scope of the thinking affects the kinds of ideas that emerge out of that thinking. Creativity needs to be fostered and developed in implementing these plans, and I bet they’d see marvelous things that never happened before.
You know what’s really amusing though? You would perhaps think that these Christians walk around with furrowed brows, being serious all the time. But that’s not the case. These Christians are actually the most delightful to be with, because they have all the characteristics that I mentioned in the beginning of this piece. They’re a little ‘hyperopic’—they can’t really see the petty problems around them too well, so they are less susceptible to discontentment, bitterness, and weariness from these small, local, and temporary trials. It just sounds like a really great way to live.
Global thinkers. Be one!
Adam understood that his companion had transgressed the command of God, disregarded the only prohibition laid upon them as a test of their fidelity and love. There was a terrible struggle in his mind. He mourned that he had permitted Eve to wander from his side. But now the deed was done; he must be separated from her whose society had been his joy. How could he have it thus? Adam had enjoyed the companionship of God and of holy angels. He had looked upon the glory of the Creator. He understood the high destiny opened to the human race should they remain faithful to God. Yet all these blessings were lost sight of in the fear of losing that one gift which in his eyes outvalued every other. Love, gratitude, loyalty to the Creator–all were overborne by love to Eve. She was a part of himself, and he could not endure the thought of separation. . . . He resolved to share her fate; if she must die, he would die with her. After all, he reasoned, might not the words of the wise serpent be true? Eve was before him, as beautiful and apparently as innocent as before this act of disobedience. She expressed greater love for him than before. No sign of death appeared in her, and he decided to brave the consequences. He seized the fruit and quickly ate. Conflicts and Courage, p 16.
Add a soundtrack and special effects to this account, and you’ve got yourself a Hollywoodized tear-jerking romantic drama. Here is an account of the most tragic event in the history of the universe, the event that would lead to the death of the Son of God, yet do we not see the acclaim and appraisal of modern society to this act: Adam was a desperate romantic. His ‘heroic’ act in dying with Eve stirs in us a response that is hard to resist: After all, he just wanted to be with her. He loved her so much, and oh how he showed love and loyalty to his beautiful companion. One problem though, his ‘heroic’ act was a sinful act.
Seriously, if this scene was put into a movie with a gorgeous actor and an enchanting actress, I’d put money that we’d find ourselves siding with Adam instead of with God, Christians and non-Christians alike. This spell of romance makes it so easy to justify sin, to justify giving up a greater love and hurting the heart of God deeply. Imagine what God was thinking, feeling, and experiencing at that moment when Adam decided that he would sin. I read this passage this morning and boy it made me angry. I left devotion time angry, how ‘bout that. It is now late afternoon and I’m trying to unpack what exactly that upsets me.
1. I was angry at Adam
Arghh it even upsets me now as I’m rehearsing the thought. The man knew what he was doing. “Adam understood that his companion had transgressed the command of God…” “He understood the high destiny opened to the human race should they remain faithful to God.” He. Knew. And that just makes me want to scream at him. How could he have done it?
It’s not that his position was without reason (and it’s not that I’m not angry at Eve’s decision – I’ll reserve that for another post). Is it possible that I myself would go through the same line of thought and make the same mistake? Sure. But that is beside the point. I could not sympathize with Adam’s decision, despite the fact that it may be hypocritical for me to say it. There is no sympathy in me for Adam’s decision. And I actually think this is a proper response. There is no excuse for sin, no matter how beautiful and romantic the justification may be.
The passage says that Adam had enjoyed the companionship of God and the angels. He had beheld the glory of God and basked in His presence. Moreover, the path of infinite growth was widely open to him, within his grasp – to be with God and to be like God. He weighed all of these in the balance and alas, they were not valuable enough to outweigh separation with Eve. It’s heartbreaking to understand the import of this moment. One decision and he let it all go, all of the things that we long so dear now – perfect communion with God.
2. I was mad at our generation
Along with Adam, I was mad at a generation of Adams who would stay silent when their wives are dying, those who understood the situation fully, chose to let their wives have their ways and followed them, those who wouldn’t risk being unromantic for the sake of their God and perhaps the salvation of their wives. What is this “you die, I die” mentality that puts romance above God. That’s Hollywood, not the Bible. Is not God worth more than romance?
The second thing that upsets me is our own, my own mindset. It’s this atrocious way of thinking that would buy into Adam’s excuses. I was mad at this female mindset that esteem desperate romantic-ness more than uprightness and unwavering commitment to God. How many times have we heard the story of people, young and old, who could not follow through with conviction because of a romantic relationship and the pressure that comes from the other person? How many times have we done it ourselves? This feel-good lovesickness is like a disease.
Lord help us, that in an age where being romantic is held in high esteem, and when it even appeals to our nature, that we would not crucify the Son of God for the sake of romance. Have mercy.