The Origin and the Purpose

16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Colossians 1:16-20

“When we walk in the Lord’s presence, everything we see, hear, touch, or taste reminds us of him. This is what is meant by a prayerful life. It is not a life in which we say prayers, but a life in which nothing, absolutely nothing, is done, said, or understood independently of him who is the origin and purpose of our existence.” –Henri Nouwen

I am a math teacher. No matter what I do for the rest of my life that will always be true, to some extent for me. If I someday have pleasure of teaching about theology, philosophy, and ethics, I still, in so many ways, will be the guy with a mustache who taught factoring quadratics and how to multiply integers.

Finding the connections between math and God can be hard. This morning, however, there was a moment of clarity. I have been teaching different aspects of the coordinate plane in all my classes. Determining points, determining slopes, translating shapes, and solving systems of equations–this has been my daily bread for the past month.

I read this Nouwen quote in the midst of Passion Week, building to Christ’s death and resurrection. It made me think about the coordinate plane, whose central point is called the origin. What makes the coordinate plane unique is that any time a point is named, it is always in reference to the origin. Apart from knowledge of what or where the origin is, the numerical value of points on the plane would have no meaning. Yet the origin is widely forgotten, regarded as just another point on the plane.

I come before God, the origin, in the same way. He has frequently been forgotten, regarded as another point among many. However, for my life and experiences to make sense, they must be placed in relation to God. My joy comes from a Father in whom I experience provision. My suffering is understood in the suffering of the Son upon the cross. The Spirit gives and drives my hope for how the new creation begins now. The Triune God (that is a piece of math I will not try to touch) constantly serves as my point of origin. Only in relation to God, do I find meaning.

“What language shall I borrow to thank thee, dearest friend, for this thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end? O make me thine forever; And should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never, Outlive my love to thee. Amen.”

~Ben Gibson

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