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EPIPHANY IN A COTTON FIELD

EPIPHANY IN A COTTON FIELD

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: 
 ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 
Gird up your loins like a man,
 I will question you, and you shall declare to me. 
‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
 Tell me, if you have understanding. 
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
 Or who stretched the line upon it? 
On what were its bases sunk,
 or who laid its cornerstone when

the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?
Job 38:1-7

It is one of my earliest memories, and the night I began to awake to wonder! I was about three or four years old, holding my mother’s hand as we walked out to the cotton field. We were going to see my father who was irrigating the cotton. And that’s when I saw it! I saw the Milky Way! Far from city lights, the Milky Way was putting on quite a show that night. When I asked my mother what I was seeing, she told me it was the Milky Way. I remember mom saying that the gazillions of stars were like God had spilled milk across the sky. I have not stopped being enchanted by the Milky Way! I am still star-struck!

Of course, a little boy has no way of knowing of how breathtakingly, mindboggling immense the Milky Way is. Since that night scientists have also learned quite a lot about the Milky Way. They tell us that our own galaxy spans a distance of 170,000 to 200,000 light-years. If you drove across the Milky Way and averaged 60 miles an hour, it would take you 2 trillion years. I can write those stupendous numbers and have no sense of how immense our backyard star system is. 

But then, how many galaxies are there like our Milky Way? The Hubble Extreme Deep Field is a collection of 10 years of photographs taken by the Hubble Space Telescope of the faintest light coming from the most distant galaxies. From those Hubble photographs, scientists now estimate there are between 100 billion and 200 billion other galaxies! 

From that night in the cotton field, I have always tried to remind myself how unfathomably great God is! If the galaxies astonish and amaze us, how much more the God who creates and holds together galaxies and atoms! Just remembering that has helped me weather some of life’s hard times. 

This is why I am repeatedly drawn to today’s scripture from the Old Testament book of Job. The very name “Job” has become synonymous with inexplicable suffering. Of course, Job’s supposed ‘comforters’ are cocksure why Job is suffering. Sadly, their lecturing of Job only adds to his pain. Finally, Job calls on God to explain Himself and tell him the whys and wherefores of his suffering. But God remains mysteriously silent. God remains silent until today’s scripture in which God speaks to Job from the phenomenon of a whirlwind.

Significantly for Job, and for all who suffer, God does not explain Himself. God gives no answers. While I ache for God to tell Job the backstory of all that went on before his suffering (See Job 1:6-12), God remains silent. Rather than answering Job’s questions, God questions Job! God takes him on a whirlwind tour of His creation. 

“Where were you Job, when I was creating the Milky Way and all the other galaxies? Tell me, if you know so much. Who decided on the size of the universe and how many trillions of stars I should make? Tell me, if you can, about the foundations of time and space and how all the angels sang and celebrated my handiwork!”

Again, God offers Job no answers; answers neither Job nor we would understand! Giving no answers, God, rather, offers glimpses of His glory. Job then answers God: “Then Job answered the Lord: ‘I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”
(Job 42:1-2, The Message)

When life gets difficult and things happen that I do not understand, I think of the epiphany in the cotton field, and know that God has everything well in hand!

A fellow traveler,
Tim

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