I don't know how many of you had the opportunity to catch Nature last night on PBS, but it was all about Martin Nicholas, a wonkish water treatment engineer from the U.K. who is also, in his spare time, a respected amateur arachnologist -- someone who studies spiders.
But he doesn't just study them. He loves them. The man is geeked on spiders. And I can't tell you how much I enjoyed watching him, on this program, as he traveled to the New World to hunt for spiders. He exuded visible, nearly palpable joy every time he found a different species in the wild. He made me love spiders, just seeing him.
Have you ever known someone with a magnificent obsession like this? I have. I used to know someone who loved to quilt as much as Martin Nicholas loves to find spiders. A late uncle of mine was fascinated by Native Americans, and spent many hours on his farm looking for arrowheads; he was fairly well read on the Native Americans who lived in our area, and I think if he'd lived long enough to get connected to the Internet he'd probably be on it all day doing research. A college friend of mine was a train buff who used to work on restoring old locomotive engines and had an encyclopedic knowledge of every train line that ever ran through the state. I work with someone who loves flowers, especially heirloom perennials, who lives with stacks of nursery catalogs, whose yard is a constant work in progress and who travels around the countryside cutting slips from old rambler roses growing on old farmsteads and in cemeteries so that these vintage varieties will be preserved.
Every once in awhile I experience a brief magnificent obsession: English ivies, bread baking, embroidery, tomatoes, Civil War history...you name it. And even though most of these are short-lived, I've not regretted any of them. Like close but transient friendships, these fleeting spurts of concentrated attention have all helped me become who I am; they've added color and texture to my life. They've all been worth it.
Eric Liddell, the famous English runner of Chariots of Fire fame, said, "God made me fast for a reason. When I run, I can feel God's pleasure.” I suspect that God feels pleasure when we take the same delight in the diversity and complexity and beauty of the world, or in the pursuit of a creative pastime, as God takes in God's creative, redeeming and sustaining work.
Love what you love with all your might. Because I think that's what God does.