On Snowflakes

It seems fitting this week to be talking about snowflakes, doesn’t it? It is cold and snowy in many parts of the country where it shouldn’t be, which is why this concept came to my mind. If you don’t know me well, I am a scientist by training, and I love knowing the way the world works. To some, the detail I want to know is excessive, I suppose. But for me, snowflakes are one of these remarkably interesting things that when we come to understand them in detail, awe for the Creator follows.

Snowflakes are made of single or combined ice crystals that fall from clouds filled with water vapor. Water vapor sticks to very cold, microscopic particles of dirt, ash, or salt in a cloud. These particles attract more vapor and form droplets. The droplets freeze into ice crystals with six sides due to - get this - the uniquely strong INTERMOLECULAR FORCES… that is the way that water molecules interact with other water molecules.  In God’s perfect design, water is a unicorn among other molecules, one that literally makes life possible. I could teach an entire course on the beauty of water. Actually, I did once… and maybe I will again.

I digress back to the science. More crystals form on the outside of the center ice crystal as water vapor collects and freezes. These crystals grow faster on the corners of the hexagon-shaped center crystal causing six dendrites to form on the snowflakes. The six main dendrites continue to grow smaller dendrites as water vapor collects and freezes on the crystals. As the crystal gets bigger and heavier, it falls from the cloud, continuing to form as it falls to the ground. This process causes every snowflake to be unique and each snowflake is remarkably beautiful.

When I think about snowflakes, I think about the variety we can see in them. I also think and am amazed at the wonder of God’s creation. I also think about some parallels I see between snowflakes and God's people. Here are a few for you to consider:

Snowflakes are a lot like humans. When God created man, he created them to be different, to reflect different aspects of who He is. When you and I were born, we were all created with different traits.

Like snowflakes, the differences in individuals are staggering.  While we are all so similar in DNA, we are so vastly different in our physical makeup, in our thought patterns, in our personalities.  I think about my husband, Tim, and I am often reminded of just how different we are.  I am a scientist and majored in chemistry and biology.  He is a lover of the humanities who majored in psychology and social sciences.  I like the quantitative, hard data.  He likes the stories and the narratives.  I want to know exactly how it works.  He simply wants to know that it works.  Along with my father, I have re-wired homes, constructed countertops, and remodeled bathrooms.  While we are doing that, Tim goes to the Home Depot and gets us what we need and laments with my mother that we did not hire a contractor.  We are vastly different in our makeup and personalities, yet our marriage is wonderful, because we complement one another.  He brings out the best in me and I like to think that I do so for him as well.

We are all created in imago dei – in the image of God.  We resemble the Creator.  It was meant to be as such.  We were made to live out our lives in worship and praise of this Creator.  As individuals, we all have a variety of characteristics and qualities that make us uniquely individual.  In working with educators and leaders, I have often used personality inventory tests to help them see the highlights of their own personalities.  Tests like the Kiersey Temperament Sorter and the Meyers-Briggs can give us some insight into the type of personality we have, what motivates us, if we are an introvert or an extrovert.  It is important to know who we are.  The first thing I tell educators is to Know Thyself.  Plato and other great Greek philosophers often implored their students to know and understand who they were, for if they did not have a grasp of who they were, how could they lead others?

But, what does this mean for us as Christian men and women, boys and girls, to know ourselves?  Sadly, too often today, we distort this idea to the point where we seek only what is best for ourselves, the individual.  The current generation of young people have come to be known as the iGeneration or Generation Me. Dr. Jean Twenge, in her book, Generation Me, laments the fact that today’s young people are "more confident, assertive, entitled, AND more miserable than ever before."

Why is this?  Why are even young Christians demonstrating narcissistic behaviors, in many cases to extremes?  I think the answers to all of these questions reside within the distortion of the “snowflake mentality.”  Today, too many children believe that the world revolves around them - that their individuality is all that really matters.

When we think about the beauty and the design of the snowflake as a metaphor for the beauty and the design of the individual, what we really ought to be thinking about is the sum of a snowstorm rather than the singularity of one snowflake.  Snowflakes were never meant to exist on their own.  Sure, under a microscope they are stunning and were certainly meant to reflect the beauty of the Creator.  However, have you ever been in a snowstorm that had but one flake?  Have you ever seen one singular snowflake in the sky?  School is not cancelled due to one snowflake.  Skiing for an Olympic gold medal is not done on a slope made up of but one snowflake.  Christmas is not white if not for a heavy snow that brings millions and billions of snowflakes to the ground.  The beauty of snowcapped mountains is non-existent if not for heavy snowfall.  Snowflakes do not exist individually and for themselves.  Winter beauty is most noticeable when snow is woven together to create a blanket of sparkling beauty the covers the earth.

The Apostle Paul, in Romans 12 exhorts us to be mindful that we are all one body, made up of many parts. Our individuality is important, our unique design is crucial, but only so much as we use it for the ultimate edification of the entire body of Christ, not simply the individual.  Our uniqueness is shallow and will only lead to emptiness if only used to exalt our own beauty, or own intellect, or our own individuality. In all reality, we are all more alike than we are all different.  We are all made in God’s image.  We are all dependent upon one another.  We are all finite.  We are all fallen.  We are all in need of a Savior.  The beauty is, we have one!

In our Christian schools, I pray that we develop the individual gifts of each child.  I pray that each student is known and loved.  I pray that their uniqueness is capitalized upon and developed so that they may flourish as humans and as Christians.  But most importantly, I pray that we, as leaders, would help our children understand that they were made uniquely individual so that they may build the body of Christ; so that God’s name might be glorified in all the earth; and so that we may develop generations of children to come who will know that they too, are uniquely designed in the image of God, so that they too may bring Him glory and honor and praise.

King David states in Psalm 19, "The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky proclaims His handiwork."

So may it also be said, "The snowflakes declare the glory of God and our children proclaim his handiwork."  We are all God’s creation made for His glory and for His purposes.  May our lives and those of our children, whom we have committed to Him, forever reflect his glory; and may we for as long as we have breath declare that it is our chief end to Glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

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