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"But science is definitely NOT my thing..."

Updated: Oct 22, 2021

I was in the middle of a park in the Tsim Sha Tsui district of Hong Kong, waiting for a friend to come out of the bathroom, when I realized what it meant that we are all made in the image of God.

I had spent about two weeks in mainland China with my best friend and we'd just arrived in Hong Kong for a few day adventure. By this point in my trip, I had become very used to watching and perceiving what I couldn't hope to get from spoken language. The full extent of my Mandarin knowledge was my ability to count from one to 99 with middling tonal accuracy. And my Cantonese, as is spoken in Hong Kong? Nothing.

We wandered the city without care for direction, eventually making our way to Kowloon Park, a massive green space rolled out like a well-placed rug among a humid landscape of highrises. As stood outside the bathrooms in the shady colonnade, I took to observing- just as one would expect an introverted scientist to do. Quietly people watching is one of my preferred states.

For these few minutes, I had the great fortune of being about 20 feet from a public piano- a traveling artistic display intended, I'm sure, to gather the community. It was painted, and people occasionally come up, looked at it, talked around it, or even jumped on to play a brief song. A little boy ran up to the piano, mother in tow. He sat down and mashed the keys a bit, attempting to play a tune without quite having built up the experience yet. His smile was wide, though, and the attempted melody caused the small crowd around him, as well as his mother, to chuckle and grin at the future pianist. Not one person that heard him at the piano that day didn't leave with a smile. No language necessary.

A middle-aged man then sat down at the piano and took a few moments to play, his talented fingers moving faster than I could watch and the notes perfectly stringing together into a beautiful piece that prompted me to close my eyes and rest in it for a few glorious seconds. Most who walked by also stopped, in awe of the beauty emanating from that piano and his fingers. No language necessary.

At this time, three young women that I guessed to be teenagers walked out of the bathroom together. Each one was in a full hijab, completely covered except for some of her face. I did not understand their conversation, but my eyes followed them as they walked past me to the park outside. With their backs to me, the girl on the right put a hand momentarily exposed- onto her friend's shoulder. It was then that a thought struck me, and I was dumbfounded that I hadn't had this realization sooner.

I had already spent two weeks marveling at the culture and lifestyles of the Chinese people and how different it was from mine. I pondered the restrictions the people lived with daily. I noticed how their language was often not the thing that separated us most. I wondered how we can be so fundamentally different that even, sometimes, what seems "acceptable" and "unacceptable" or "right" and "wrong" were different between their cultures and mine. Two weeks wondering how we can have diverged so much.

Even specific to these three women, the difference between our experiences was stark. I could not understand their language, and they likely could not understand mine. They were covered in head to-toe black fabric, and I was regretting that I had chosen to wear jeans instead of shorts due to the heat. If you add in the teenage slang, I wouldn't understand anymore even if it were in English. There was nothing those girls and I had in common.

But there was! Despite everything that separated us, I saw the commonality: a loving hand on a friend's shoulder, offering compassion and support even if it means exposing ourselves. Her love for her friend caused her to come out from her covering, the protection of the hijab, to perform a small but compassionate act for her friend.

In the midst of all that separates and differentiates us, it is easy to think we are so different that we have nothing in common. It's not true, though-we were all made in the image of God. Every person on this earth right now bears the image of God, even those that would refute his existence. So, when I am surrounded by people who seem so different from me that I struggle to find common ground, when I do find those commonalities that must be God. Compassion and friendship- that is God. Laughter and joy, even about something as fleeting as a little boy playing piano- that is God. The way we all stop and bask in a few moments of peace when beautiful music is being played by the hand of a skillful artist- that is God.

Because that's what this is, right? Whether or not we are conscious of it at any given time, we are all hearing and basking in God's symphony- his constant singing over us. It's why beautiful music will stop us any time- every nation, every culture, every set of life experiences.

Zephaniah 3:17- "The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."

If science as you study in school is not your thing- great! God has not called you to study science as a profession. He has called you, however, to observe His creation and learn about Him (Romans 1:20). Of all Creation, large and small, only one creation God has made was made in his likeness. From all else, we can gather information about Him and His character indirectly and learn much, but only one has his direct image. Only human beings have that privilege.

Only human beings, then, have the opportunity to corrupt God's image, as well. The reason I like science as a way to learn about God is that it is reliable; I can study the stars and, eventually, find Him. Humans are made directly in His image and no other creation is a better means of seeing Him... and it means that humans are also uniquely qualified to mess up that image. You see it every day. Walk down the street and ask everyone you meet about believers; you will see that believers are often not palatable because we are nothing like the God we profess to serve. It taints the image of His church to those that don't know Him.

We bear his likeness, but we obfuscate it with daily decisions so it's often imperceptible. The thing to remember is that we cannot fully obfuscate it. We cannot erase it. People groups around the world have very different cultures, likes and dislikes, value systems, and even rules of ethics, but when we look through what differentiates us and find the universal commonalities- that must be God. If every human is made in His image, the only thing that binds all of us is that image.

Listen to your friends study science as taught in school, and be ready to engage friends, classmates, coworkers, or strangers so that they have the opportunity to know God through their studies. In your own personal growth, though, make it a lifestyle to observe those around you. Observe while you travel. Observe the people on the internet from the other side of the world. Observe the pinnacle of His creation, human beings. Note the differences, but pay special attention to the commonalities. If you find something that all humans share- love, joy, compassion, laughter, etc- that is the image of God. That is imago Dei. That is God directly, through the only bit of creation that has that privilege. That is our biblical mandate, and how we learn who God is through creation.

So go... go and discover who He is. Go and find Him, maybe not in atoms and stars and theories, but in the people around you. Keep your eyes open, learn about Him, and then... share it. It's not a secret to keep. Go learn about Him, and tell others what you find. That's science, my friends. That's science, and you are a scientist. Welcome to the club!

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