“God works in a mysterious way”

Posted on March 8, 2012

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I passed a milestone today that may be worthy of comment. Both John Calvin (1509-1564) and Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) — two of the greatest pastors and teachers of the Church — did not live to see their fifty-fifth birthday. Calvin and Edwards both died just short of their fifty-fifth. I, on the other hand, made it to the beginning of my fifty-fifth year today, thus meaning that I share the same birthday as Mickey Dolenz of The Monkees (which is about the only thing we have in common despite my very pathetic attempts at learning to play a musical instrument in the past which has had me barred from certain more sensitive areas of civilization).

All of this leads me to wonder if God knows what he is doing. Perhaps if Edwards had lived longer he could have straightened out the Connecticut River Valley and prevented the rise of that hydra of Hopkinsianism, Taylorism, the New Measures, written that systematic theology he planned and influenced a generation at Princeton; Marsden’s biography would have then been two volumes! And surely, Calvin could have accomplished a lot more to shape the course of the gospel throughout Europe, Britain, and perhaps the New World if he had lived into his seventies. Yet, God in his infinite wisdom takes superior churchmen and theologians in their prime and allows other very also rans to meander on.

“God works in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.”

Oh dear, not really the way to end a blog post on my birthday, is it? Let me finish with a little something special, a quote from the author I read for total pleasure: P. G. Wodehouse. I have been slowly reading through all his novels since I rediscovered him as my first marriage was failing in 2003. He was and still is a balm for the soul. These are the opening lines of his 1923 comic novel, The Inimitable Jeeves. The chapter title is “Jeeves exerts the old cerebellum.” When you read it and you are one of those who know me well, you will know why it makes me laugh out loud. For as my dear friends and family have realized all too well, when I say, “There is only one way to make a perfect cup of tea,” I am being totally serious:

‘Morning, Jeeves,’ I said.

‘Good morning, sir,’ said Jeeves.

He put the good old cup of tea softly on the table beside my bed, and I took a refreshing sip. Just right, as usual. Not too hot, not too sweet, not too weak, not too strong, not too much milk, and not a drop spilled in the saucer. A most amazing cove, Jeeves. So dashed competent in every respect. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I mean to say, take just one small instance. Every other valet I’ve ever had used to barge into my room in the morning while I was still asleep, causing much misery: but Jeeves seems to know when I awake by a sort of telepathy. He always floats in with the cup exactly two minutes after I come to life. Makes a deuce of a lot of difference to a fellow’s day.

I do envy the person who has never read a Wodehouse novel and picks one up for the first time, knowing that there are over 90 books ahead of them and each one immaculate in the writing and a joy for the reader.

My best wishes to you on this March 8, 2012.