It was bitterly, bitingly, eyeball dryingly cold on the beach this morning. I wanted to hear David Suchet reading the four Gospels as they approach Christ’s death, but my fingers were too numb to work the touch screen and then the thing stopped recognising my thumb print. Too windy to sit on my favourite log. Hands in pockets, head down, ignore the left leg (which no longer belongs to me, apparently) and do a 50 minute circuit, brain in power-save mode, any prayer ragged and perfunctory, whipped away like the wind-blown sand.
But then, then, then….on the way home; do you ever get a sudden mental picture of something that seems to come out of nowhere? I do. As I was driving along the narrow lane, on the side of the hill, above the river, I had a mental picture of skyscrapers, lit up at night. It was a memory of a TV programme I had watched a couple of weeks ago, featuring a town in the Far East which was a fishing village just a few decades ago and is now a densely populated city. Millions live there, where once there would have been maybe a few hundred. As I watched the TV screen I had one of those fleeting thoughts “Millions, upon millions, all through the world. How can God care about every one of us? Millions upon millions over thousands and thousands of years. How can God care about each one of us, loving us?”
It was one of those unknowable questions that fly in from nowhere, but because they are so obviously unknowable, and life takes over, they soon leave us. I thought little of it, apart from that sort of vague disquiet of a thought unfinished.
But this morning, reflecting on my frozen efforts to pray, while anticipating meeting a car coming on the narrow road (my consciousness is a scattergun thing at the best of times), I had a sudden understanding. Well, I call it an ‘understanding’, but you, of course, may choose to call it a misunderstanding. Weirdly, I saw those skyscrapers again and remembered my question about the millions of people and then – out of nowhere – I had an image of my husband. He was a project engineer. He would go to Fiji or Mauritius or Africa, and choose a piece of land and from there he would oversee the design and build of a sugar refinery. When the project was complete, in operation, he knew every aspect of every building, every machine, all the power supplies, the drainage, the foundations, the basic mechanics and the advanced technologies involved. He didn’t have to think about them. He knew them.
He didn’t have to ask himself about any aspect of the refinery, he didn’t have to think about it, he didn’t have to look up the plans and research the processes, because he had designed it all ….. and the knowledge was part of him. I couldn’t begin to understand the processes and the structures and the costs, the forward planning, the supplies and products and labour force involved, and neither could you, but George was the designer, and he knew it all. All.
When we were based in South Africa and he was working on a larger team than in the UK, at a meeting about costs, there was a suggestion that money could be saved by doing away with some of the unskilled workforce. George was appalled. This was their livelihood. He knew the role of these men and women in the refinery and he knew that what they earned would support their families. He knew that the money saved would simply increase the profits. He didn’t have to think about it. He knew. That night, in bed, he lay awake, troubled, caring, even angry. To him these people were more than numbers, more than problems. They were a part of his heart, a part of his knowledge. I was amazed. George was not a heart-on-sleeve sort of guy. I said something flip like “I didn’t know you cared.” and he said that the whole point of being a designer in any industry was to give work to people, and the profits to him just meant that you could give more work to more people. I was humbled.
And today God humbled me.
Aristotle couldn’t know and care about a million people, and neither can you or me, Stephen Hawking for all his amazing intelligence couldn’t know and care about a million people. But this is God we’re talking about. Our designer. Our maker. He knows without thinking because he IS. The great I AM.
The God who created us, doesn’t have to think about us. He knows us. And whether we’re one or ten or a billion, he knows us. And He cares about us enough to create us. We are part of His knowledge. Perfect.
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.