Sometimes we need a good dose of reality therapy — a reminder that reality is far wilder and more wonderful than we often realize.
We have this strange tendency to take our own existence, others’ existence, and the world we live in for granted, as if these are just mundane facts. As if living on a giant sphere spinning at 1,000 miles per hour, while orbiting around a gargantuan fireball at about 67,000 miles per hour, in a solar system that’s traveling around the Milky Way at over 500,000 miles per hour, while the galaxy itself is hurtling through space at more than 1.3 million miles per hour is just sort of ho-hum. And the real exciting action is taking place on Facebook or Fortnite.
No, we need to pull our heads out of our virtual worlds of self-preoccupation and remember what’s real — what’s breathtakingly, gloriously real. Let me try to revive your memory by riffing on just a few astonishing things about you.
First, you’re here. When was the last time you really thought about that? You’re here! And you’re here because God wants you here — regardless of the circumstances surrounding your birth, how much or little others have valued you, your abilities or disabilities, how sweetly other people have nurtured you or how terribly they have abused you, what kind of sinner you were or how long you were. You are here because God chose here and now for you.
You exist because God wanted you to exist (Acts 17:26–28). And as a Christian, God chose to make you his child in Christ. He began to love you as his own before the universe as we know it existed (Ephesians 1:3–6). And God is pursuing you with goodness and mercy every day of your life (Psalm 23:6) — yes, every day — and he will bless you exceeding abundantly beyond anything your remarkable but still relatively limited imagination has yet conceived (Ephesians 3:20).
That is your reality. Do you believe it? I mean, really? Not as a mere abstract theological fact, but as something that sometimes makes you catch your breath and your knees go a bit wobbly. Does it ever hit you that you are God’s idea and God’s creation — that he intended you to be?
There’s far more to your existence than lunch and soccer practice and Netflix and turning in that report and that broken relationship and the congressional elections and retirement savings and Abercrombie & Fitch. Yes, as Jesus said, your “life is more than food, and [your] body more than clothing” (Luke 12:23). So much more.
You Are Alive!
Now, let’s just think for a moment on the amazing truth that you have this thing called “life.” Where did you get your life? You got it from God (1 Corinthians 7:17). You are alive? Do you even understand what that means? No, you don’t — and neither do I!
No human being has been able to define exactly what life is; we just know that life is. Scientific definitions of what life is are really just descriptions of how living matter differs from nonliving matter and how living matter behaves. We might know a lot about what propagates life, sustains life, and ends life, but we can’t capture life’s very essence, that mysterious thing that is life. And that’s because all life comes from the Life (John 14:6), the one Great Existential Fact (Exodus 3:14).
Do you know how rare you are as a living being? Life in the physical, observable universe is very, very, very, very rare. And that’s a dramatic understatement. The conditions that must be met for life to exist are so restrictive that, far from it being likely that other intelligent beings exist in the cosmos, it is nothing short of a miracle that any life, not to mention intelligent life, exists anywhere.
And you — statistically speaking, you should not exist. Given the incalculable billions of sperm and ova combined with the incalculable billions of circumstantial twists and turns over the course of human history, any one of which could have resulted in you not being here at all, it’s nothing short of a miracle that you are. You, as a living being, are so rare, and as a statistical probability, so unlikely, we can scarcely begin to comprehend the marvel of your existence. You’re alive because, against all the obstacles and probabilities, God gave you life.
You Have a Brain!
And speaking of comprehension, of the teeniest fraction of universal matter that is alive, you are of the rarest kind because of your brain. That thing in your head that’s allowing you to read and contemplate this right now. Your brain is the most complex thing ever discovered in the material universe. Nothing else even comes close.
We often talk about the brain in clinical terms as if it’s just a normal, matter-of-fact thing. It is not a normal, matter-of-fact thing. It’s a miracle of matter. Through an incredibly complex nervous system, your brain manages your vision (sight), audition (hearing), gustation (taste), olfaction (smell), and somatosensation (touch), equilibrium (balance), digestion, cardiovascular system, pulmonary system, epidermal (skin) system, immune system, and a whole bunch of other systems, and synthesizes them all together so that you can go about your life thinking about and doing other things.
And what kinds of things are those “other things”? Grinding prescription eyeglasses and building skyscrapers and managing newspapers and choosing homeschool curricula and designing space shuttles and engaging in cross-cultural evangelism and preparing delicious meals and architecting a landscape and programing computer software and installing indoor plumbing and undertaking Bible translation and installing kitchen cabinets and projecting trends in global finance and coaching youth soccer teams and painting with oils on canvas and planting 500 acres of wheat and teaching graduate level English literature classes and installing water wells in arid regions and conducting pharmaceutical research and composing symphonic scores and planting churches and monitoring grocery store inventory and writing a difficult email and organizing a public library and repairing automobiles and planning convenient gas station locations and playing hide-and-seek with children and placing a satellite into orbit and creating GPS maps that talk to you while you drive and composing a sonnet and laying the footers for a suspension bridge in deep ocean water and committing Scripture to memory. These and a hundred billion “other things” are the result of the human brain — like yours.
Who You Are
This is only the tip of the iceberg of the awesome reality of your existence. Take this in any direction you choose and just let yourself think about the astounding thing it is to be alive and conscious in this incredible world.
Don’t let the morbid and horrific commandeer your thoughts, neither allow your weaknesses, discouragements, sins, or defects to cloud your skies. These are realities, but they are subordinate, fading realities. Cast what you must upon the cross, but then pull up and soar above introspection. Remember for a while that your existence — and the world’s — are wild things, awesome things, fearful and wonderful things (Psalm 139:14). And remember who holds them together “by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3).
You exist because God wanted you to exist and you are who you are, what you are, how you are, where you are, and when you are because God made you (John 1:3), wove you in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13), called you to be his own (John 10:27; Romans 8:30), and assigned you a life to live (1 Corinthians 7:17). And this infuses your entire life — its good and evil, its sweet and bitter, it’s health and affliction, its prosperity and poverty, its comfort and suffering — with an unfathomable dignity, purpose, and glory.