Turtles and Transdimensionality

They don’t say much—in fact they don’t speak at all—but Ralphie and Candace have taught me plenty. Their actions, swift and sly, speak volumes and remind me of old habits I’m grateful to have let go of (mostly).

A good friend would likely encourage the pair toward spiritual maturity, but that’s not an option. At least not concerning Ralphie and Candace. They’re turtles—family pets.

Whenever one of us walks by their tank, the two red-eared sliders, well, slidespryly off their rock and plunge into the water. Seconds later, the tops of their eyes emerge as if sneaking a glance at us, their giant caretakers. What these turtles can’t seem to grasp is that we can totally see them, be they on the rock, immersed in water, or poking their reptilian eyes out.

So how does this remind me of old habits? Because I once thought I could hide from my Caretaker. Every now and again, suffering, complacency, or stubbornness will try to delude me into thinking the waters of my life are too murky for God to see me—nor I Him. Here’s where diving into Scripture can help bring clarity to this turbid perspective.

In the midst of insurmountable suffering, Job acknowledges still that God is all-present, all-knowing, and all-powerful:

What is mankind that you make so much of them, that you give them so much attention, that you examine them every morning and test them every moment? (7:17)

Does he not see my ways and count my every step? (31:4)

Even Job’s counselors show confidence in God’s omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent character.

Eliphaz – He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted. He provides rain for the earth; he sends water on the countryside. (5:9–10)

Zophar – Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens above—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths below—what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea. (11:7–9)

Bildad – Dominion and awe belong to God; he establishes order in the heights of heaven. Can his forces be numbered? On whom does his light not rise? (25:2–3)

Elihu – God is exalted in his power. Who is a teacher like him? Who has prescribed his ways for him, or said to him, “You have done wrong”? Remember to extol his work, which people have praised in song. All humanity has seen it; mortals gaze on it from afar. How great is God—beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out. (36:22–26)

Of course it might still be difficult to envision how God can simultaneously be near and beyond us. Hugh explains in his forthcoming book, Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job (October 2011), how mathematicians have found a way to illustrate this reality:

One way is to picture a two-dimensional realm inhabited by two-dimensional beings. These “flatlanders,” having access to length and width only, would be incapable of making contact with a three-dimensional (3D) being hovering even a tiny fraction of an inch above their plane. But that 3D being would be capable of gaining and maintaining a perspective on them beyond what they could possibly have on each other—either with or without their awareness of its presence. And, of course, a 3D being could certainly choose to make contact with the flatlanders and impact their existence in a variety of ways.

Another way to picture the situation is to go back to the little turtle eyes of Ralphie and Candace. From their perspective, their surroundings—a plastic plant, miniature Japanese garden bridge, and filter—seem to provide ample hiding places. But they don’t, really.

There’s no hiding place for these omnivorous creatures. Likewise, there’s no hiding for us. An omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent Caretaker can totally see us and can impact our existence in a variety of ways. Thankfully, he is also omnibenevolent; thus, his impact—though mysterious and often beyond our understanding—ultimately serves his purposes and benefit his creatures.