On snowflakes and sand

snowSome terrible tragedies have entered my orbit in recent months.

Twin 17-year old girls, friends of a friend, were in a car accident that left one twin dead, and the other hospitalised. Days later, she too, died. As it turned out, the twins had lost an older sister five years earlier, also in a car accident.

A woman who gave birth to two stillborn twin boys went on to have a successful pregnancy and childbirth. She and her husband enjoyed two incandescently happy hours with their newborn before trouble arose. A normally harmless virus had ravaged the baby’s heart in utero, and he died a few days later.

My cousin, whose father committed suicide more than 30 years ago, committed suicide himself, leaving behind two young daughters, just as he himself was left behind at their age.

I have thought a lot about all three events, struggling with the reality that these things happen in our world even though we are loved supremely by Triune God. I wish I could tell you that I’ve come to an earth-shattering conclusion that makes all of these events make sense — but, of course, I can’t. They don’t make sense in any way. The mother who lost her third baby wrestled with what had happened a few weeks later on her blog, noting that when her one living child was in pain, she’d drop everything, and do anything to ease her pain. So where was God when she herself was in agony? When two teen girls could have been delayed just a few seconds in order to avoid the speeding driver who slammed into their car, where was God?

None of it makes sense.

If anything has risen to the surface in all this for me, it has been simply this: if there was no God, would we care about others? Would we be anything better than crocodiles? 

What if the very fact that we grieve so deeply when we lose loved ones or see them hurt — the fact that we care when even strangers experience loss — is the best evidence of God there is?

I recently saw a series of images of snowflakes under a microscope. Each one was indescribably intricate. I live in Minnesota, where we live with several feet of snow coating the landscape for months. To think that it’s not just masses of cold, flat, white nothingness out there, but trillions of tiny jewels — not one alike — instead is pretty mind-boggling. Sand is the same way under a microscope — absolutely stunning.

But as humans, we lack the eyes and perspective to see it. Snow is just snow. Sand is just sand.

What if life is like snowflakes and sand and the other countless, nameless objects we don’t possess the eyes to see? What if life, to us, seems long in the face of loss when in our cosmic reality, it is really more like one long, deep breath — or even a single heartbeat?

When the father of now three dead daughters spoke to reporters, his advice — like that of so many who have stood in his shoes before him — was to hug our loved ones and tell them we love them today. Because tomorrow does not always come.

Today is precious.

Karl Bart wrote:

Joy is the rarest and most infrequent thing in the world. We already have enough fanatical seriousness, enthusiasm, and humorless zeal in the world. But joy? This shows us that the perception of the living God is rare. When we have found God our Saviour –- or when he has found us –- we will rejoice in him.

We don’t have to run far to find him. We have only to look at a snowflake under a microscope to know that there is much more to life than that which meets the eye.

But how to live our lives joyfully and not in terror that, even while loved supremely by God, peril awaits at every corner for those we love?

In his TED Talk, Brother David Steindl-Rast notes that grateful people are happy people. Gratitude comes first. Gratitude, he says, comes from seeing every moment as an unearned gift.

The way not to live in fear is to make a practice of appreciating THIS day with my loved ones as the unearned, miraculous day that it is. To make sure I love them today so that if I lose them tomorrow, I don’t have the regret of taking them for granted to add to the weight of my grief and missing them.

The way to live joyfully is to make a practice of slowing down and noticing. Gratitude always follows, and then so does joy. Brother Steindl-Rast’s advice is to stop — look — and then go.

My simple recipe for a joyful day is this: Stop and wake up; look and be aware of what you see; then go on with all the alertness you can muster for the opportunity the moment offers. When I am grateful, I am neither rushing nor slouching through my day — I’m dancing.” 

Father, Son and Spirit are always dancing. All of humanity is caught up and included in their dance. Life will bring tragedies and we no more have the minds to understand them than we have eyes to see the full beauty of a snowflake or grain of sand. But we can see a great deal if we just stop and notice.

“All that I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson

~ Jeannine Buntrock

Photo by Alexey Kljatov.

7 comments so far

  1. Fanny C Webber on

    You should give credit to the Russian photographer Alexey Kljatov for the picture used. Not doing is a form of plagiarism or simply theft.

    • iamjean9 on

      Thank you for your concern and I agree! I’ve checked and since I cannot confirm the source of the image, I have replaced it with another.

      • Fanny C Webber on

        This image is by Kenneth G. Libbrecht so you need to credit him. The one before you can find here:

        Most photographers are OK if you use their image and credit them , unless they have it written otherwise or trademarked , One cannot just use an image out of the internet just because it is in the internet without giving the author credit for it. That is all.
        Or one can use their own photos. You can give credit on the bottom of the photo or article. I can be very simple.

    • iamjean9 on

      Fanny, it won’t allow me to reply to your reply below – but I have restored the original image and given the photographer his due credit. Thanks! In the past, I have used Microsoft stock images to avoid all this, but have not been able to access them lately. I need to explore why. Thanks for your help!

      • Fanny C Webber on

        That is great. It is a beautiful image.

  2. Tony Marra on

    Wonderful article…I can’t imagine the pain some experience in this life from losing their children. We spend so much time in our own little worlds of grief and worry….A scripture comes to mind..

    Romans 8:17 NIV
    Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory….(Thank You Jesus)

    • iamjean9 on

      Thank you, Tony! Wonderful quote.

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