While gathering some seashells last week, I was struck with their symmetry, beauty, and design. On one beach, within 10 yards of each other, I found three conch shells, each different in color and texture. We had also been touring some historic towns, viewing the architecture and art of the past, which was also impressive.
- “As the snail grows, so does its calcium carbonate shell. The shell grows additively, by the addition of new calcium carbonate, which is secreted by glands located in the snail’s mantle.”
- “Nacre, the rainbow-sheened material that lines the insides of mussel and other mollusk shells, is known as the toughest material on Earth.”
- “…scientists discovered a nanoscale architecture of organic and inorganic material that combines the best properties of layers and solids, hardness and resilience, into a nearly indestructible supermaterial.”
- “… when stress is applied to the shells, the ‘mortar’ squishes aside and the tablets lock together, forming what is essentially a solid surface. When the force is removed, the structure springs back, without losing any strength or resilience.”
- “This resilience sets nacre apart from even the most advanced human-designed materials.”
Now, get this: a snail, from its own body, is constructing a dwelling that outperforms our best engineering. In the words of one scientist:
“It’s incredible that a mollusk, which is not the most intelligent creature, is fabricating such complex structures across so many scales…”
This is a snail!! Step aside Einstein.
In addition, down here in the south, shells often are synonymous with trash. They are crushed for bike paths and driveways. This “refuse” from the ocean outperforms our best engineering, and does it with a beauty and design that at best we try to copy!
24 O LORD, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
25 Here is the sea, great and wide,
which teems with creatures innumerable,
living things both small and great. – Psalm 104:24-25
What does this have to do with prayer?
“Unanswered prayers,” especially in times of great suffering, challenge our view of God: his reality/power, or goodness/love/justice. For believers who have set their hope on God’s existence, we are often challenged with the latter.
- Is he good?
- Does he love me?
- Will he deal with injustice?
When I read the book of Job, these are the types of question that surface. And how does God finally answer him? In chapters 38-41, God takes Job on a natural history museum tour of creation, from astronomy to meteorology, to zoology. He is directing Job’s view to created things all around him, things that scientists labor to understand. In each of the museum displays: snow, lightning, Orion, mountain goats, eagles and dinosaurs, there is displayed “amazing wisdom” all shouting – God knows what he is doing!
Notice, God does not explain to Job what he is doing in Job’s life, or even why he is doing it. He just assures him: “Look around you. I know what I am about. And it is good.”
I think when I return home I’ll keep one of these shells as a prayer reminder: My Father is good and just and wise.