Conversations with God

Spheres

How can God be present in my work? This is a question I have asked in conversations with myself many times. It is hard to imagine that the God of the universe would be sitting with me as I navigate the tabs of an Excel workbook (something I do most working days). My thinking about God and His role in my work changed dramatically after learning about one man. And seeing one painting.

Nicholas Copernicus (1473 -1543) was an academic, a mystic, a seeker of truth, and seeker of God. A polyglot (man of many tongues) and a polymath (master of multiple subjects), he established economic theories, participated in politics, held official roles in the church, commented on the scriptures, and (most notably) was a revolutionary astronomer. Jan Matejko painted The Astronomer Copernicus, also known as Conversations with God, in 1872 [1]. A piece portraying one the greats of Polish history, it depicts a young Copernicus at work tracing the night sky from a rooftop in the village of Frombork, Poland.

I love everything about this painting. Drawing me in are the details of the staging, the rich gem-tones, and the subject, Copernicus. His eyes, prayerful, gazing upward; his right hand, signalling peace; his left hand, compass at the ready; his study, messy, productive, exploratory. A scrappy scientist chasing a new theory, building future thought, stopping to gaze heavenward as if to ask God a question. It is this moment of conversation that I find so inspiring.

His study of astronomy presented interesting patterns in planetary motion which implied that planets rotate around the sun and not the earth (a concept called heliocentrism). These results directly conflicted with the geocentric views of the church at the time. The church held strongly to a set of scriptures as the basis for their belief [3-5] that since humanity was the center God’s affections, humanity also should logically be at the center of the universe. Copernicus postponed the publication of his magnum opus, On the Revolution of the Celestial Spheres, until the end of his life in 1543 with the church making a note at the beginning with the caveat that his proposition was only a mathematical exercise and not actually how the heavens operated. Even after publication, it took more than 100 years his ideas to be accepted as true [2].

I love Copernicus and his story because he remained equally committed to both the church and to the study of truth. He called it his “loving duty to seek the truth in all things, insofar as God has granted that to human reason” [2]. This fueled his study of the astronomy in the face of opposition, where he monitored celestial paths systematically in hope of reconstructing the heavens within the human mind. I picture Copernicus talking with God in the midst of this work; almost as if God was His closest colleague.

As people in various fields and spheres of influence, there is this great invitation for us to take our lives and lay it before God as an offering, expecting Him to work through what might seem everyday and ordinary [6]. For Copernicus, this looked like spending late nights on rooftops, persistently observing and calculating, gathering the courage to publish findings that were unpopular and yet what that world needed to hear.

Conversations with God occur for me as I walk around production lines, analyze trends, and synthesize data into easily comprehensible stories. They occur as I interact with colleagues, learn about their lives and their families, and share my life and my beliefs. In these conversations, I ask God how I can demonstrate kingdom values of justice, honor, and service through tasks I am paid to perform. As I have asked, there have been many times He has given me courage, clarity, and encouragement that I know come only from Him.

Your conversations might take place behind the walls of a cubicle, the bar of a cafe, or in the solitude of an art studio; in the busyness of annual report preparation or studying for your next exam. Maybe you converse with God as you drive your next Uber passenger to their destination or your kids to school. Whatever it is you find yourself doing, God can partner with you in your labor as you lend Him your ear.

If we begin the conversation with Him, He has promised to join in; if we ask the question, He has promised to respond [7-8]. Start the conversation.

Peace,

Alexandria

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Things to Remember:
– God is present in your work – He is with you.
– God is available for conversation – mutual exchange.
– God can lead us to results that challenge our current thinking.
– If we offer Him our vocations, He can use them.

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Inquiry and Awe
My response to Copernican discovery

In the midnight hour, I search the skies for a sign of Your hand at work,
tracing the whirl of the stars to reveal the rhythmic footsteps of our Maker.
A pattern or fingerprint,
something that looks like what I know of You,
something that looks like Love.

You are with me in the searching and the tracing,
Guiding my eyes,
Like a matchmaker arranging the introduction of girl with thought and discovery,
Changing perspective,
Bringing revelation,
Drawing near,

I long to know more.

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Places I borrowed from

  1. Tsaneva, M. (2014). Jan Matejko: 122 Paintings and Drawings. E-book.
  2. Christianity Today. “Nicholas Copernicus.” http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/scholarsandscientists/nicholas-copernicus.html
  3. Psalm 104:5 “ He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved” (NIV)
  4. Job 26:7 “He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing.” (NIV)
  5. Isaiah 40:22 “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.” (NIV)
  6. Romans 12:1-2 “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (MSG)
  7. James 4:8 “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (NIV)
  8. Matthew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (NIV)

Images: Astronomer Copernicus (1872), by Jan Matejko [Public Domain]  and Copernicus’s vision of the universe in Dē revolutionibus orbium coelestium [Public Domain]



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