I was inspired recently by a BBC TV series entitled ‘Countdown to Life: The Extraordinary Making of you’. The first episode in particular was fascinating, following the first 8 weeks of pregnancy in which everything about who we are is decided; often even before the prospective mother is aware of her condition.
Recent discoveries in genetics show that our code is not set in stone. Genes can be switched on or off during the early cell changes necessary for the development of the embryo. This can be impossible to predict or avoid and can permanently affect how parts of the body are built, or even how long we will live.
I started wondering whether something had gone wrong very early in my mother’s pregnancy to affect my vestibular system. And I started to look at what I had learned from this programme through the lens of faith.
One of my favourite parts of the Bible is Psalm 139, a beautiful hymn of praise to the God who created us and to the miracle of life: “For you created me in my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…I am fearfully and wonderfully made….All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
A big question arose in my mind: how can things go randomly wrong if God is the author of life? I have no straightforward answer, but I came to think that God has lovingly put many wonderful and mysterious creative processes in place. He is not a controlling God or one who wants our knowledge to remain limited. Humankind is still discovering the processes of creation and has made great progress in science and other disciplines.
Perhaps we need to think in terms of each of us carrying the divine spark, no matter how our development has worked out, either in the early stages of our formation or later in our lives. That divine spark is what will enable us to live with courage and hope, no matter what happens, because it means that we belong to God and that He holds our lives safe in His hands.