Today would have been my father’s birthday.
He died just over ten years ago, not long before he turned 81. I spent some time thinking about him and remembering what he had given me. This included not only physical things, like providing for the family, being an excellent father and the like, but also who he was. I inherited my big frame from him, my square jaw, my logic, my scientific bent and my retiring personality. Any social awkwardness I have was also inherited from my father. Then there was his influence over my life. Little girls always try to please their fathers. He taught me to love classical music and scientific things. I remembering him telling me when I was quite small that it was possible to grow bacteria until you could see them. You made a special soup and that enabled them to grow. In my childish mind, I had this picture of a germ getting bigger and bigger until I could see it. It was only much later, when I studied microbiology that I understood and I grew bacteria myself, not so they would grow as my childish mind had imagined, but to multiply so much that bacterial colonies could be seen on agar plates in petri dishes.
A large part of who I am is a result of who my father was. I believe God planned me specifically, determining who my parents were, where I was born, in what era I lived and the economic circumstances of my family.
I can say with the Psalmist, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, surely I have a delightful inheritance.” (Psalm 16:6)
God’s influence is in my ancestry, like a vein of gold running through the baser ore.
When I think of how carefully God planned Jesus’ lineage, I am convinced He planned all of us just as carefully. Sometimes He used mixed marriages and even disreputable characters to be included in Jesus’ family tree. I think of Rahab, the heathen prostitute who sheltered two Israelite spies just before the fall of Jericho. She joined the Israelites and took their God as hers, later marrying Salmon, father of Boaz. Then there was Ruth, the Moabitess. Her people worshipped the god Chemos. When both her husband and her father-in-law died, she followed her widowed mother-in-law to Bethlehem with the famous words, “Don’t urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16 NIV)
She went on to marry Boaz and became the great grandmother of King David.
From a purely scientific point of view, I believe God specifically chose to introduce these genes from other cultures and nations to the gene pool from which Jesus would be born. In the same way, I believe God deliberately chose the genetic heritage of each of us to make the unique, unrepeatable masterpiece that is each one of us.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13-16 NIV)