Monday, October 31, 2011

The Day of the Seven Billionth


Sunday Morning, 10:57 am.  --  Hands rise, voices crescendo, the two-thousand-strong congregation has become one single choir of unified worship. 

But not to God’s ear.

An exhilarating flash of understanding strikes me – the pleasure He is receiving, while we sing how much we love Him, is not solely the pleasure of having one great, huge, unified Body honoring Him.  It is far more than that.  It is the pleasure of having one intimately-known friend express her deep love – multiplied two thousand times over.

We don’t have the capacity to experience more than two or three earth-shattering loves in our lifetime.  We never imagine that the words “omnipotent” and “omnipresent” and “omniscient” might mean that when He is in a room of two thousand or twenty thousand, He is receiving and interacting with each soul as deeply and enjoyably as if they were the one person with Him in a two-person universe. 

The world is screaming today about how many people there are alive, torn between a feeling of the milestone’s momentousness and a deep misgiving.  Seven Billion!  Seven Billion! 

She who loves self more than others is quaking with the fear that today’s seven billionth baby will plunge everyone, including herself, into spiraling poverty and resource-poor living.

He who loves creation more than the Creator is angry that the Father’s burgeoning family will encroach upon the pristine but temporal land he values more than he does an eternal soul.

Spirits who hate the Father are writhing in eagerness to take down that seven billionth, and billions more with her, into eternal separation from Abba, and to keep any more from being born – since that seems the best method to injure the untouchable God.

And she who truly loves living people, but misunderstands the living God, mistakenly believes each person’s life will be better if the number God has to take care of is kept to a minimum.

In it all, our attention (even that of loving, believing Christians) is being diverted from what has really happened today. 

God is rejoicing over the seven billionth life!

In the last two centuries we have hit the tipping point – due to the principle of exponential growth, the Industrial Revolution, medical breakthroughs, and agricultural advances our population is rapidly increasing.  Between 1801 and today (about 210 years, a small fraction of the years since creation) we’ve grown from one billion to seven billion.  Minus a “Malthusian catastrophe” or natural and man-made disasters that could dramatically reduce the world’s population, the number of human souls on the planet will continue to explode - to the dismay of many overpopulation-fear-mongers.  Even Christians look at aerial photographs of the teeming markets and streets in places like Manila and feel their hearts sink.  So many people.  So many. 

The number of synapses in our cerebral cortex is finite.  You discover this when you try to imagine the existence of God before creation.  We can go back a thousand years.  A hundred thousand.  A million.  But when it exceeds that and billions upon billions of years of His uncreated existence tumble into our minds, piling high, we pull up hard - dizzy and overwhelmed.  I can’t go that far back and wide in my mind.  It isn’t possible. 

The same problem – a limited physical capacity for imagination and understanding – rears its head and brings me to a screeching halt when I imagine knowing and loving each and every soul walking those overcrowded streets in India or Bangladesh or China, or even Chicago. 

And because I can’t possibly know each of seven billion intimately, it doesn’t seem to me that God can either. 

There are many things that cannot be understood with the mind (if even for the simple fact of the physical limit on the size, speed, and firing capacity of our grey matter).  They must, instead, be perceived with the spirit.  This is one of those.

I can love many, but to be intimately involved with each of my children probably requires that I have less than twenty (and that’s if I’m a super high-capacity person, which I’m not.)  But to assume it is the same with the uncreated Father is a highly egocentric perspective.  He is the one who “fashions their hearts individually” and to whom we can confidently say, “every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” 

But to love SEVEN BILLION people that well?

Without thinking it, we think:  “Not even God can do this.”
Without saying it, we say:  “His capacity to love and know has a limit.” 

These are the heresies we imply when we mourn the advent of the seven billionth; or shrink from the challenge of feeding, clothing, and housing them all; or simply do not celebrate today’s births.  We are making God in our own, tiny image.  In the end, we are stating what we really think of Him, stating how little we understand about a Father whose essence was Father before He ever created children.

That sort of a Father, the one God IS, is completely capable and completely committed to caring for each child.  He made it clear in scripture that He rejoices in godly offspring, that He created us to multiply, that His greatest natural gift to humans is the gift of a child (as His greatest spiritual gift is the gift of a Child).  

The hoopla of dire projections, and fear, and counting then recounting available global resources has at its core a deeply imbedded sin that is found festering like an absorbed thorn in the fleshly heart of every one of us – the sin of unbelief. 

If I do not believe who He is and what He says He will and can do, then I too will not rejoice – with dancing and shouting and celebrations of heart – over today’s birth of the seven billionth, and over the bean-counters’ projections of another billion or two to quickly follow.

But I don’t count beans.  I count He who has promised faithful.  And that faithfulness is inextricably linked with the giving of children. 

Hebrews 11:11  By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.

Today is a good day in the Lord’s book – the day of the seven billionth!