FROM THE ARCHIVES: ETC Volume 5, Number 1
It is still dark out this morning, but I’ve already begun a productive day. The fire is burning in the next room, the light bulb burns above me giving me light. I have cut one columnist down to size, at least the articles he’s written for the next two issues of Tabletalk. Having done so I have set my Macintosh computer to work in sending the finished articles down to my comrades in Orlando, while on my PC, I write the last article for the next issue of Every Thought Captive. (By the way, lest you think I’ve gone corporate, I also just finished a breakfast of toast made from Denise’s home ground, home made bread.) I’m feeling good, feeling strong, everything is just whipping along. Oh, “I’ve got mail.” Isn’t technology grand?
Technology this morning gives me a feeling of power. I am master of all I survey. I send this here and it goes. I retrieve that from there, and it comes. I push buttons and behold my thoughts appear on the screen. I’ve got it all under control, unless something goes wrong. That feeling of mastery can dissipate faster than the early morning darkness. All it takes is for the cursor to stop blinking, or for one of those weird messages to pop up on my screen- Warning- Assymtotic cobol error number 4- and I’m suddenly Superman drowning in a pool of kryptonite. Technological hubris is not the exclusive domain of genetic scientists and nuclear physicists. It happens to all of us when we pridefully assume that we have it all under control. And it happens perhaps most frequently where technology intersects with our families.
There is probably no greater life-changing event than the arrival of a child. Jobs change often. That big mortgage we signed, it is on a house that will one day be rubble. But children last forever. Not a one of us would hesitate to burn our homes down or take a job cleaning sewers if it would keep our children alive. And nothing makes us more flummoxed, makes us feel more helpless than the birth of a helpless newborn. This week Shannon and Delaney have been sick, and sick in the most disgusting ways. I want to make them well, but instead all I can do is hold them with one hand, and hold a pot in front of them with the other. I am helpless against the invisible bug that assaults them. Even the doctors tell us, “Just wait, and they’ll get over it.”
This helplessness too often does not cure us of our pride. God humbles us, but we are not humbled. If we can’t manage them when they come, at least, we reason, we can manage when, or if, they come. The geniuses down at Dow Chemical have put in our hands the power over life and death. Or so we think. Sometimes, by the grace of God, our technology of death fails us, and God gifts us with a helpless baby. Sometimes, in the judgment of God, our technology of life fails us, and we learn the hard way that we never had it under control. Sometimes He rewards our assumption that we are in charge, that we have the power of life in us, by giving us charge, and letting us fail.
What would our forefathers have thought had they known that the blessings of their blessings would one day schedule the arrival of blessings as if they were bottles of milk left on the stoop? “We figure that we’ll spend a few years after the wedding getting to know each other, just the two of us [the Christian equivalent of shacking up] and working so we can save money for a house. Then we’ll have our first child, and when he turns four, then we’ll start working on the next. If at that point we have one of each we’ll probably just quit, and then, five years after that I can go back to work. If they’re the same, we’ll wait three years and try again.” God will not be mocked. He who opens and closes the womb will not take orders from yuppie brides.
One thing we miss in our technological age is this wisdom, that life is a profound mystery. Almost daily I find myself staring at one of my children, and wondering, “How did this happen? Once this person, the object of my love, was not. And now there will never again be a time when he will not be.” There was a point in time when my children began, but there will be no time when they end. It did not happen because of chemical reactions, though God may have used them. It did not happen because of the marital act, though God may have used that. It happened because God made it happen. No pill, no barrier, not even abstinence can make it stop, if God has willed it. And no charts, no petri dishes, no thermometers can open a womb, if God has not willed it.
Children are the most tangible, tactile evidence of the work of God that we will ever see on this green earth. They are a constant reminder of our own weakness, our own dependence, because we are His children. And they are a constant reminder of His great strength, His power, His authority, and His grace. We are not due the blessings He sends. But we are called to worship and thank Him for sending them, to acknowledge the Giver, and neither try to refuse His gifts, nor try to wrench them from His hand. We are His children, and not the masters of all we survey. Rather we are servants of the Master, who made and controls all that He surveys, whether it is a smoothly running computer, or a cranky Macintosh, whether it is a closed or a fruitful womb. Let us honor Him by staying out of His way, by acknowledging His absolute authority, and trusting Him to do that which honors Him, and sanctifies us.
By R.C. Sproul Jr.