I’m a Geographer and Earth Scientist by my education. I’ve always loved maps and science, especially the earth sciences, and so in college, I chose to study those subjects. At the time, I didn’t think about what type of job I would actually get in those fields, and so thankfully, perhaps by Divine Providence, this new thing called Geographic Information Systems(GIS) started to take shape. This was 20 years ago, and GIS essentially marries mapping with data, science and technology – all into one. Well, over the years I’ve evolved and the industry has evolved and I now make my living building map-based websites and software, which is truly something I enjoy.
But to this day, I have always loved earth science. All of it. Meteorology, oceanography, geomorphology, plate tectonics (that’s how I met my wife… We liked to say the earth moved when we met…), and the list goes on. Even the inter-planetary sciences. Astronomy. Space.
But there is one earth science that always truly fascinated me – Geology. The study of rocks and their change over time. The great quote from the movie the Shawshank Redemption says it all – “Geology is the study of pressure and time. That’s all it takes really… pressure… and time…”
Pressure and time. Different types of rocks and land masses, molded, and transformed over billions of years. The most magnificent mountain ranges, the most beautiful rock formations and gem stones, formed under constant stress and pressure. The folding of landmasses running into each other. Pressure building, and building, until a volcano blows its top. The effect of the wind over those rocky landscapes. The waves of the ocean, constantly lapping and crashing against the shore.
It all adds up – little by little.
This is exactly how God molds us. He comes to us little by little. As much as the world, as Satan, attacks us little by little, God is there, shaping and molding us, letting the pressure and heat transform us into something better, one step at a time. We don’t like it at the time. It may not make sense. But it all has a purpose. The first reading tells us today, how God “rebukes offenders little by little.” He warns us and reminds us of the sins we commit, one little bit at a time.
Why? Because beauty takes time. Imagine all the water it took to carve out the Grand Canyon. If that were to happen that all at once, if all that water necessary would come from the sky and rush through the land, the results would be cataclysmic and any canyon created would be a lifeless, hollowed out wasteland. No – to create something of the beauty of the Grand Canyon requires the ebb and flow of water over millions of years, patiently cutting its way and meandering through the rock underneath.
It took millions of years for something like the Grand Canyon to reach its potential, to reach its purpose. And it continues to do so, little by little. Everyday. This type of beauty cannot happen overnight. Nor can our beauty, nor our potential. It needs to happen little by little.
Paul writes about how he prays that God makes the Thessalonians worthy of His calling, that He brings to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith.
God has a calling for each of us. He has a purpose for each of us that we glorify Him every day, and that He is glorified in our actions every day. This doesn’t happen overnight. This isn’t through some big bang or huge revelation – it happens little by little. Even if we have some sort of clarity, some epiphany that yes, this is what God wants me to do – there is still work to do. There are still challenges to overcome. There is always a metamorphosis, a transformation of ourselves along the way.
Paul warns us that this is not going to happen immediately or suddenly, but rather little by little, over time, subtly. We may be like Zacchaeus in the Gospel today, where he is simply trying to get a glimpse of this Jesus fellow. Jesus calls him to come down from the tree, because He needs to stay at his house. Of course, Jesus has a greater plan.
Sometimes Jesus comes into our lives that quickly, and abruptly. It can be like a volcano or an earthquake, shaking up our world and leaving us bewildered. We say it’s a wakeup call, we say it’s a life changing, unexplainable event. And perhaps Zacchaeus felt this way too, so much so that he offered to give away half his belongings to the poor.
But Zacchaeus was still who he was, and who he became happened little by little. And so even after his meeting with Jesus, surely he still had to fight his internal demons so to speak, and work to do to fulfill his purpose, his calling of the Lord. But little by little, the sinner became an Apostle of Christ.
God reveals Himself to us, and reveals who we are, little by little. He shapes us, and transforms us, just as he transforms rock, patiently, sometimes with consistent pressure, other times with abrupt movements, or intense heat – all over a period of time. Thankfully, we don’t live on a geologic timescale. If we let Him, He can shape us in our lifetime. For some, this is longer than others, but all can result in unparalleled beauty, little by little.
WIS 11:22-12:2; PS 145; 2 THES 1:11-2:2; LK 19:1-10