My new book, Everyday Wonders: Stories of God’s Providence, is the product of a summer’s work in Portland, Oregon, where the parishioners of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church encouraged me to write down the stories that I had included in various sermons during my visit there. They asked if I had ever written any of them down, and I said no, I was waiting to record them when I retired from full-time pastoral ministry. They reminded me that I already had. So I sat at a desktop computer and began typing.
I realize that in an increasingly secular, less religious society, young people often question whether or not the world has a direction, a purpose, a meaning. From the Christian perspective, there are two options, neither of which can be “proven” by visible, empirical, “scientific” evidence.
The first is that, starting with the “Big Bang,” every atom and molecule that will ever exist came suddenly into being, and this physical chain reaction is the total sum of all that will ever exist. The basic physical “building blocks” of reality have just been bumping into and reorganizing themselves into different shapes and forms for billions of years.
Some of those re-configurations produced humans some millions of years ago, and their various interactions eventually produced your grandmother and my gold fish, and even you and me. But the whole cosmic process and everything in it, from the most distant galaxy to the tiniest proton, is simply one magnificent but meaningless and continuing chain reaction without any reason, point, or purpose to it.
The other option is to posit a Purpose or Meaning first, “behind” the chain-reaction. Before there was a material universe, there was a Mind, an Energy, a Creative Genius, who not only signaled the beginning, but sustains the process and in some ways guides it, toward its eventual End. And you and I and all our ancestors and everything that exists have come into being according to that Will and Plan. We are all here for a reason, and the main task of our lives is to discover the plan and conform our lives, our behavior, and our priorities to it.
I find some difficulty with the first option simply because if everything is part of one amazingly fascinating but pointless process, everything I think is also part of that chain-reaction, each thought the product of the one that came before it, back to the Big Bang. So even what I’m thinking has no point, purpose, or meaning. Why bother doing or thinking anything at all?
There are at least hints that there is meaning and purpose to our lives, and these come in flashes that indicate there is a reason, a purpose to our existence. I’ve called these “everyday” because they happen to ordinary people all the time, but “wonders” because they clearly seem too extraordinary to be just coincidences, though they may fall short of being characterized as “miracles.”
So for those who may question the possibility of such “wonders,” I offer this catalog of a few of my own, hoping that they may inspire a deeper, more profound exploration of spiritual truth, spiritual realities, for we, as Orthodox Christians, believe that “in the Beginning was the Logos,” the Reason, the Purpose, and the Logos became Flesh and dwelt among us. For the Purpose for everyone and everything is not a plan, a philosophy, a political agenda, an economic system, a corporation, or an empire: The Purpose is a Divine Person, whom we believe is named Jesus Christ.