An Astrophysicist’s Loaves of Bread and Fish
WRITTEN BY ANKE ARENTSEN, PHD CANDIDATE, ASTROPHYSICIST
How can I, an astrophysicist, serve God through my work? It is a question that I have been thinking about since I started studying, but especially since starting my PhD. I am grateful that I found the Science Cross-Current group right at the beginning of my PhD, because it has helped me think through some aspects of this question. And it didn’t just help me think, but there was also a challenge: to find a connection between our area of research and Christian faith, and to prepare a talk about this! So I started learning more about the relation between science and faith.
I would have never expected something like this a few years ago, but last year I gave my first public talk on science and faith at the university in my city, organised by the local SMD/IFES group. It was definitely a scary experience! But it was good. I think it is important that Christians in science are visible, since there are many prejudices and misunderstandings about science and faith.
A while ago, the local SMD group asked me again if I wanted to be part of an event they were organising: an evening where people can come and ask all their questions about the Christian faith (a “Grill a Christian” event). I was supposed to be the “expert” on science and faith, and I would be part of a panel together with two other people. I really didn’t know what to say to this. The SMD leadership thought I was able. But I felt extremely unable, I had just started thinking about these topics, there was so much I didn’t know, could I really say yes to this?! I thought about it for a while, and asked God. I still didn’t know. I was close to declining.
One day I decided to really take some time to think about it. In my morning Bible reading I had been reading the Gospel of John, and that morning I was reading John 6:1-15. These are the verses about how Jesus fed a large crowd with only five loaves of bread and two fish. While I was reading about the little boy offering his few loaves of bread and his fish to Jesus, I thought to myself: “I would like to be more like this little boy”. I admired the faith and trust the boy had. And then it hit me that this little boy was offering Jesus everything he had, even though it was really small, and that he trusted it would be helpful to Jesus and that Jesus could use it. He didn’t think “those few loaves of bread and fish that I have won’t be of use anyway, I’ll keep it to myself”. He offered everything he had, because he had full trust in Jesus. To me, reading this part, it felt like God showing me that I can give whatever little I have or can do, and that HE will use it to do bigger things. I don’t need to have all the answers. In the end it doesn’t depend mainly on us.
And maybe you also have things in your life right now that you feel you are not the right person to do, because you are “just you”. Do you trust that God can use you? How? Are you willing to give Him everything you have, even if it is scary?