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2 Timothy 1:7a “for God has not given us a spirit of fear”
As a farmer’s daughter, I learned how to pick tomatoes as I learned how to walk. As a science professor’s daughter, I learned how to properly record data as I learned how to write. Most importantly, as a daughter of devoted Christ followers, I learned that Jesus loved me as I watched my parents love everyone in our little world and beyond. All of these lessons shaped my life and worldview then and continue to do so now as a wife, mother, science professor, and black-thumb destroyer of defenseless houseplants.
There was never a separation of science and faith in my childhood. Every Scripture verse and science fact was a treasure to be unwrapped in the beauty of their togetherness. A deep-seated awe of sunlight and the Light of the world was meticulously uncovered in Scripture and wavelengths, angles, and photosynthetic processes and equations. The colors of Noah’s rainbow weren’t just on the flannel graph board at church but were alive in the quantitative and qualitative data collected from colorimeters, light meters, and beautiful sunrises. The waters of the sea of Galilee weren’t just fishing grounds for the disciples. Those waters were millions of molecules brimming with the incomparable innate intricacies of hydrogen bonding, surface tension, capillary action, and density. The sands of Egypt were far more than where the Israelites wandered for 40 years. They were lands made of distinctly shaped and sized quartz grains as seen through specific soil science measurements. And all of these facts were direct influences on the size, shape, and amount of the tomatoes I had to hoe, harvest, count, and weigh (and then give to neighbors, friends, and strangers, put on the table for supper, or store in canning jars).
When I watched my father encounter questions he couldn’t answer with numbers or Scripture, I learned that not knowing definite solutions was okay in a steady solid faith growing in humility and trust. When I watched my parents encounter life circumstances they wouldn’t have chosen, I learned the importance of daily obedience, hope, and that mercy does triumph over judgment. Faith in our Good Creator God was (and still is) essential in all parts of their lives.
Taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34: 8) was both an abstract and a concrete concept for me as a child then and now as an adult. Abstract in the deliberate joy of daily asking, thanking, and trusting God for good soil, timely rains, and insect and disease control. Concrete in the visceral joy of the juices of just-picked peaches, blackberries, and watermelons running off of my chin corresponding to the sugar readings I recorded in line after line on the data sheets. Joy truly became delight in the tasting and seeing of God with multiple senses all the while knowing that my hard work contributed to this bounty but didn’t control or guarantee it. And the joy kept growing from the deep knowing that He gave me the opportunity to participate, both in the believing and being there in the growing season and harvest.
As the years passed, I was repeatedly surprised to find that most people didn’t learn about science and faith together. They only knew science versus faith and never the twain shall meet, as Kipling might’ve said. Many people I knew from church embraced faith and rejected science. Many people I knew from school embraced science and rejected faith. Yet all of them consistently and often, vehemently argued the need for compartmentalized thinking in that only they could be right. And they did this, all the while refusing look each other in the eye, much less seeing the other through the eyes of their hearts, independent of whether they chose science over faith or vice versa.
For many years, I didn’t know that fear was the real source of their anger. Not just fear of what they didn’t know or understand in the science or of the faith, but the underlying fear that they weren’t in control, nor ever would be.
Herein lies the true issue – control is the heart of both science and faith. And control is what can either divide us or unite us, depending on how we respond to it. Arrogance promotes fear’s growth while humility chokes it. Arrogance causes me to choke on my inadequacy and ignore my neighbor. In contrast, humility hungers for more of Jesus, the Only One Who is enough so that I can love my neighbor.
Lord Kelvin captured the idea of control in science with, “the scientific process has two motives – one is to understand the natural world; the other is to control it”. In contrast, Paul said it well for the relationship of control and faith with, For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 ESV).
So whether I’m researching Scripture, science, or both, I rest in the truth that only God is in control. He’s in control of every proton and promise, every process and proclamation, every system and every symbolism, and every story, including mine. Nothing is not under His control. And nothing includes every outcome or order, independent of whether or not I understand it. When I set aside my arrogance, He will take care of the fear, for not even it is beyond His power or plan.
And there in the rest of His control, I find strength, hope, courage, and faith far beyond what I can measure, much less what I can record in words or numbers.
Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me and I will give you rest—all of you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear my yoke—for it fits perfectly—and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens.
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written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2022