Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God. Psalm 90:2
What I’ll not forget about our visit to Hot Springs, SD, years and years ago, was my son’s deep fascination with the ongoing work of grad students who were, even as we visited, busily brushing away the dust from the massive pile of skeletons unearthed in a single murderous sinkhole. He was transfixed, not only at the horror show of bones and skeletal remains, but also at the archeologists’ careful work. This wasn’t just some Black Hills tourist attraction. People were getting their hands dirty, dusty, as we rubbernecked.
In 1974—just ten years before or so—some construction grunts had uncovered objects so strange that they immediately quit digging. Lo and behold, the earth yielded was a treasure trove of petrified animal life dating back to a moment, thousands of years before, when a watering hole turned death trap for a variety of animals, most of them now—and for thousands of years--extinct.
The Mammoth Site of the Black Hills is an amazing place, a work in progress, and my son was thrilled.
Just then a voice reminded me, in no uncertain terms, that he was being lied to.
When I was his age, I was taught that the earth was some 6000 years old, that evolution was a pagan lie, that the Lord God almighty, our God, had so elaborately tinkered with creation so as to make those stupid scientists actually believe creation could older than the Bible claims it is. I was taught that dinosaurs were sinister fabrications of snarling atheists driven to control our minds with a worldview that denied God. Lies and falsehoods, all of it. And I was told all of that by good, praying folks, whose hearts—I still believe—were in the right place. They were just simply dead wrong.
There I stood, watching my son’s eyes, transfixed. Once I overcame my guilt, I had to chuckle at devoted arrogance of sweet Christian people so blessed sure they had a corner on God’s own truth. I’d been their victim. If I were to believe them, what my son was eyeing in front of us that day was an preposturous, elaborate hoax.
The expansive reach of the first verse of Psalm 90 feels a lot like universalism. For all generations, Moses says, you, Lord, have been where we live, work, and have our being. All generations, he says. Does that include the slave-holding Egyptians? And what about the Israelites themselves, a people who’d forgotten this God, a God who, once they’d cleared the
Red Sea, had to give them all new rules
for holy living. What about the Jews who
didn’t know Yahwah? Were they too part
of that all? And what about Asians?—what about those who
crossed the Bering Strait and put down dwelling places on the Great
Plains? What about those
folks in sub-Saharan Africa, or Australia’s
Aborigines? Who is all included in this all?
And now the second verse—“from everlasting to everlasting” this God reigns. I wish someone had taught me as much and as well about God’s expansiveness, his omnipotence, his everlasting love.
But then, we’re more comfortable, I suppose, pointing proudly at we’ve placed behind glass quite comfortably in our own museums than the limitless open stretches of wilderness before us.
We’re human; pride comes easier to us than awe.