Matthew Sewell is the author of the popular “Popes in a Year” daily email series, and hosts The Popecast, a podcast about papal history. Matthew writes about intriguing stories from Church history, the messiness of the Christian life, and (occasionally) insights into Catholicism through Denver Broncos football. By day, he works at Flocknote to help parishes and dioceses build a more connected Church. Matthew, his wife, and their unborn child make their home in Spokane, Washington.
The very words “fidget spinner” have begun to make me (and likely any sane person) cringe of late. The entire concept of such a thing must stem from the mind of a crazy person. The things just spin. There’s literally no purpose to fidget spinners, other to simply occupy one’s time out of sheer boredom. A person has nothing to show for having “used” one. Fidget spinners are utterly without meaning in the grand scheme of life.
At the premiere for his latest film, actor Jim Carrey responded to Kathy Griffin’s recent unfunny and universally-panned gesture of the president's faux decapitation. He initially defended the action, but closed his remarks by saying:
“Don’t worry about it, don’t worry for your existence. All of this is meaningless. So relieved about that. Seriously, everybody is very worried right now and I just try to tell people, all of creation is just God’s fidget spinner.”
What a sad take on an utterly beautiful world.
For starters, that one could think of our creation as meaningless, especially when acknowledging that it was God — the Unmoved Mover, ipsum esse, that which nothing greater can be thought — who created it, is a contradiction in terms. Bishop Robert Barron, speaking at a conference in 2010, said, “Why did God create? [The First Vatican Council] said, ‘So as to manifest and share His glory.’”
The good bishop was quoting from the document Dei Filius, which went on to describe God’s benevolence toward creation thus:
“Everything that God has brought into being he protects and governs by his providence, which reaches from one end of the earth to the other and orders all things well … God, the source and end of all things, can be known with certainty from the consideration of created things, by the natural power of human reason: ever since the creation of the world, his invisible nature has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.”
Read that again: God orders all things well.
Even the most secular of scientists would concede that there is an order to creation. But it isn’t just any order — it’s a downright perfect order. That Earth spins and circumnavigates the Sun, that flowers bloom every springtime, that a snail’s shell and a pinecone and a sunflower all adhere to the Fibonacci sequence, right down to the cosmological constants which keep our universe from imploding or exploding, it would seem our Creator has not just done a job, but has done the absolute best job in creating an inhabitable universe.
Sure, the world is fallen. And sure, President Trump could reasonably be considered part of that fallen world. But lo how narrow one’s vision must be if that’s all one thinks of creation. Should a person like Jim Carrey get out of the concrete jungle and out of his own head and witness things like Glacier National Park’s towering mountains and rushing rivers and myriad wildlife, or Spokane, Washington’s tulip magnolias and lilac bushes in full bloom, such a viewpoint might turn instantly on its head.
Speaker Chris Stefanick said recently, “We don’t have a God who sometimes helps people out. We have a God who splits seas, who conquers death, moves hearts, and makes heroes … Our God is mighty, and we are His children.”
It’s here that we should be most reminded of the great masterstroke of God: that he created man in His image and likeness. Then, after man fell, He took on that very flesh, was crucified, died, and rose from the dead.
And that, friends, is not some pious legend. Christ’s death and resurrection is a fact of history. If that isn’t meaningful, I don’t know what is.
St. Peter wasn’t crucified upside down for some aloof God. St. Engratia didn’t have her side ripped open, St. Lucy her eyes plucked out, St. Lawrence his flesh grilled alive, or St. Matthew his skin flayed off for some meaningless existence. St. Maximilian Kolbe giving his life in place of another was a silly thing to do, if all the world is merely God’s fidget spinner.
What’s funny is that I’d bet good money that deep down folks like Jim Carrey really do know that there’s meaning to life. Instead, perhaps it’s their own worth of which they aren’t convinced. But our God has an answer even for that.
See, the very fact that we exist — when we don’t have to exist — especially when we concede that God created everything, shows quite clearly that we have been willed into being, and are here and now being held in existence by that same Creator. In other words, we are wanted. We are enough. You are enough.
A great priest I know once preached, “It’s correct to say that there’s nothing we can do to make God love us less. But it’s also equally true that there’s nothing we can do to make God love us more.”
Our Lord has created us in His image and likeness, and loves us as we are. Plain and simple. But true to form for our great both/and faith, God creating so as to manifest and share His glory means we’re each called to something unique, special, and fruitful. We’re called out of ourselves, to give of ourselves, to make our lives meaningful and pleasing in the sight of God.
God is our Dad and we are His children, heirs to the entire kingdom. A kingdom fraught with meaning, bubbling over with beauty and goodness, and a free gift to us.
All we have to do is say, “Yes.”