The Universe, God and cancer

VISTA’s look at the Helix NebulaThe heavens declare the glory of God……

Psalm 19:1a

Werner Heisenberg, a pioneer of quantum theory, is most famous for his uncertainty principle. He once succinctly underscored the experience of many scientists who have tried to fit faith, scientific observation, and reason together. He said:

“The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.”

My Late Arrival to the Natural Sciences

I have had intense curiosity about human nature most of my adult life. As a mental health clinician for many years, it only stands to reason that I should want to understand the psyche. But my husband is perplexed by my very, very late-developed, almost childlike, curiosity for the natural world.

First it was biology:

• how and why have dogs evolved to love us, or
• what purpose a may fly has that never eats, only mates and dies within 24 hours.

Then it was classical (Newtonian) physics and mechanics:

• how a bridge is suspended, or
• how hydraulic oil can multiply force.

Since diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer my obsession with the cosmos has taken center stage. I binge watch any science of the universe series I come across. I read just enough to make me an expert. I think about astrophysics. I talk in small numbers: 1 x 10-34 (the time between true creation and the Big Bang), and large numbers: the diameter of the universe (45,600,000,000 light-years – maybe – since it depends in part on where the observer is located. Call me, I’ll explain it to you.)

I have discovered, as the late Emily Levine said of herself,

“I have the ability to perfectly understand all science……. except, of course, the actual science, which is math.”

Hyperbole? Of course. I know little but there is no denying my mind soars when I think about string theory, dark matter and energy, space-time continuum. My curiosity about the cosmos, however elementary and void of a grand scientific intellect, is nonetheless, real joy.

But Why Now?

“But, why now?”, asks my husband as he sits mostly still through my retelling of each episode of “One Strange Rock.”

I would think the answer is obvious: facing my mortality brings the big life questions into deeper reflection and investigation. Is there a creator? Is God really there for me in a life to come? “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied,” writes Paul in a letter to Corinthian Christians.

I have lived most of my Christian life focusing on being his follower in the here and now. I have seen the evidence of God’s existence in the forgiveness I have received and experienced through the Christ who sacrificed himself for me. I have been the recipient of love and continue to be the recipient of love from others. I have felt the prayers and gracious kindness of so many that gratefulness has been more acutely experienced than ever before. I have seen and heard of lives transformed throughout the world by the Gospel, mine included.

It’s all there but I’m anticipating venturing into unknown territory. Thankfully Christ came, died and rose from the dead, and in doing so leads us out of death into a new kind of life. But the reality of living this Christian life is that I live it in community; dying is facing God alone. That can be a terrifying thought. If it isn’t, it should be. So, by looking at creation, particularly infinite creation (cosmos), I’m looking at the character, in part, of the Creator. And I am comforted by what I’m seeing.

Watching the Trailer

But my husband was still not completely convinced. “Dona, most people, maybe even all people, in your situation do not spend their time trying to understand Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. (See footnote below.) That is certain.”

David asked me to write about my obsession, believing the “Clarity of Ink” would bring more insight. And, he was right. I discovered my new interest in science is not just for reassurance (God are you out there?) but also for anticipation.


Yes, God loves us beyond our comprehension but the one who loves us is also holy beyond our comprehension, powerful beyond our comprehension, infinitely mysterious and awesome beyond our comprehension. These thoughts are terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time. Entertaining my curiosity about God and the cosmos is building up the exhilaration of meeting the creator of the cosmos. My recent efforts to understand what I can about the Big Bang, quantum theory, and space-time is akin to a desire to watch the trailer for a highly anticipated movie; a taste of the wine from the vintage bottle.

The Creator is pleased with our curiosity. The abundant life that Christ said is ours as we believe in him is in process. What is joyous here should be exponentially more satisfying and thrilling in heaven.

I am learning and seeking answers that the cosmologist heavy weights are discovering. And my longing to know more and to be capable of knowing more will be increasingly fulfilled as I someday delight in a glorious awe-inspiring eternal discovery field trip.

I don’t suspect that in heaven I will spontaneously know all things. I hope not. I’m counting on joining the throngs who are forever learning more and more of the infinite mysteries and wonders of the Trinitarian God. Meanwhile, I will indulge my curiosity as far as it will take me in the here and now; trusting that it’s only the paltry beginning of something unimaginably beautiful and wonderful to come.

Footnote: In quantum mechanics, the uncertainty principle, also known as Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, is any of a variety of mathematical inequalities asserting a fundamental limit to the precision with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle, known as complementary variables, such as position x and momentum p, can be known simultaneously. (Easy-peasey!)

13 thoughts on “The Universe, God and cancer

  1. Michele Margulis June 24, 2019 / 10:10 am

    It’s thrilling to see how God is using this time in your life to turn your full attention to things of the eternal. I think we are all just a little envious of the things He is showing you, how He is loving on you and giving you glimpses of Himself in such personal ways. He is so tender toward you. We all leave your blogs with a warmth of soul and gladness of heart because you show us He is REAL in such a time as this. (even if the blog material leaves us a little confused…:D)

  2. Steve Hayes June 24, 2019 / 1:54 pm

    Dona, thank you I think, but you lost me at the “math.” My head hurts. I enjoyed geometry so much in high school that I took it twice. Math for Dummies 101. Love you. Bon courage. Steve

  3. Susan Snyder June 24, 2019 / 4:28 pm

    I agree with Steve, my head was hurting reading your thoughts. BUT, I agree there is so much to learn and the process is fun especially now that I don’t have to learn but want to learn! Maybe I should check out “One Strange Rock”!😉

  4. lynnette dihle June 25, 2019 / 2:50 pm

    Hi Dona,
    Nils and I have been slower than molasses to write you as we continue to care about you and pray for you. We thank God for You, your wonderful gift of writing about your growing and being. In turn it helps us. Your latest blog, “Thoughts on the Universe, God and Cancer” has so many layers. Oh my gosh, as your curiosity grows, your capacity to absorb the many wonders grows and grows.
    You blow me away!
    Thank you, thank you.
    All the Blessings of love, light, and curiosity,
    Lynnette Dihle

  5. Polly McCauley June 25, 2019 / 8:41 pm

    Dona, your thoughts, eloquence for words, and your heart amaze me all at the same time!
    This is so beautifully expressed and awe inspiring. YOU are inspiring.
    Love you—thank you for sharing your creek with me the other day! God is an amazing creator —He makes the littlest details just to show His love for us and bring us joy!

  6. haydensummer June 26, 2019 / 6:47 am

    I agree with Polly ^^^. Its was beautifully written, interesting, inspiring piece. While reading, I First thought, I know what you mean about math, Next, I love the deeper meanings behind the thoughts and got me to wondering the same, yet not to the extent of yours, yet I loved the honesty and the way of God bringing you joy through science or the questioning of the cosmos and beyond. I am so thankful to God for you my sister in Christ. Much love to you.
    Thank you Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit to be present in and through all of the questions and you meet us in the here and now and leave us to hope for the later after. Thanks Dona

  7. joelleherskind June 26, 2019 / 7:50 am

    Love this:) Thank you! Curious about this! What the difference between true creation and the Big Bang? > . I talk in small numbers: 1 x 10-34 (the time between true creation and the Big Bang), and >

    Joelle Herskind Spiritual Care Team Jericho Road Community Health Center 716-984-6898

    Sent from my iPhone


    • donaeley June 26, 2019 / 9:50 am

      Thanks for the comment and question, Joelle. Regarding the difference between ‘true creation’ (my term) and the Big Bang, here is my over-simplified explanation. Before the beginning there was nothing, then suddenly there was something (small extremely dense mass), then about 10 to the minus 34 seconds later (give or take) there was an explosion (Big Bang) and the beginning of the universe.

  8. Julie Orsi June 26, 2019 / 10:22 pm

    I frequently travel the universe with Captain Kirk ” space the final frontier”. When I want to feel the greatness of God, I look at the heavens on a starry night and marvel “oh God how great thou art!” It fills my heart with the wonder of Him. I sometimes think of heaven as a foreign land, but my soul is from Him. We go to our roots so wouldn’t our soul will be familiar with and deeply rooted in the knowledge of “this is where I belong.” It has to be that way because He is a loving God and our comfort and sense of coming home to where we first began would seem the absolute joy of God our Father. We will feel we belong there. Hard to imagine now. But I am going to trust that is so!

  9. Olivia Hawbaker August 28, 2019 / 5:14 am

    Dona, this is beautiful. Your thought that “The Creator is pleased with our curiosity. The abundant life that Christ said is ours as we believe in him is in process. What is joyous here should be exponentially more satisfying and thrilling in heaven.” is a beautiful portrayal of God’s love and interest in us, having a life abundant in freedom and joy. Thank you for sharing your words and self on this page! ❤️

  10. leighannemclean October 2, 2019 / 7:12 am

    Good morning Dona! I have enjoyed reading about your journey. You are a beautiful writer and your words reach down into the deepest part of me, spiritually and emotionally. Thank you for sharing your heart with all of us. I thought of Lou Giglio as I read your post this morning. He has some things on YouTube that he presented to a group of teenagers at Passion in Atlanta many years ago. (I think this is where he was). He was touring with Chris Tomlin. Take a look at that sermon series. I think you will enjoy it in light of your new “hobby”. I’m praying for you and David. Much love to you both, Leigh Anne

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