We are in the midst of Palindrome Week. A palindrome is “a word, phrase, or sequence that reads the same backward as forward.” Examples include “Mom,” “Dad,” and “Tell a ballet.”
Today is 9/13/19. Read backward, it’s still 9/13/19. The same was true Tuesday (9/10/19), Wednesday (9/11/19), and Thursday (9/12/19). The trend will continue until next Thursday (9/19/19).
Another ten-day palindrome week begins on 1/20/21. We’ll have more ten-day series in 2023, 2024, 2025, and so on through 2029. Not to mention thirty-eight “full palindrome days” scattered throughout the twenty-first century (9/10/2019 and 1/20/2021, for example).
Why is today so spooky?
Today is unusual for another reason as well: we will see a “harvest micromoon” tonight. It is a “harvest moon” because, as the Farmer’s Almanac explains, such a full moon allows farmers to “work late into the night by this Moon’s light.”
It is also a “micromoon” because the moon is at its furthest distance from Earth. It will appear 14 percent smaller to us than when it’s at its closest (a “supermoon” such as we had last year).
And, of course, it’s a full moon on Friday the 13th. This last happened nationwide in 2000 and won’t happen again for the entire country until 2049.
Superstition regarding the number thirteen may have arisen in the Middle Ages, based on the fact that there were thirteen people present at Jesus’ Last Supper, which was held on the thirteenth day of Nisan on the Jewish calendar. Friday is associated with Jesus’ death, of course, but early tradition also identified it as the day Eve gave Adam the forbidden fruit and the day Cain killed his brother, Abel.
And so, a full moon (even if it’s a bit smaller than usual) on Friday the 13th is drawing considerable attention today.
Why do we name planets?
Why do we assign numbers to days (and even hours, minutes, and seconds) and names to natural phenomena? Why do I care what manmade name I call the “oak” tree in my yard or the planet “Venus” I can see in the night sky?
Friedrich Nietzsche believed that the “will to power” is the basic drive in human nature. We seek power and control over every dimension of our lives. Assigning names to things gives us a sense of ownership over them. Our neighbors don’t name our pets, for instance.
This impulse has biblical roots. In the Garden of Eden, God “formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name” (Genesis 2:19).
Such authority is consistent with the biblical declaration that, as David testified to God, “You have given [humans] dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas” (Psalm 8:6–8).
Here’s the catch: our ability to name God’s creation and thus wield authority over it is to be exercised within God’s authority over us. He put us in his world “to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). “Work” translates abad and means to serve and enhance. “Keep” translates samar and means to caretake and guard.
Our calling within nature is to develop it but also to protect it. Agricultural, scientific, and medical advances are clearly within our Genesis vocation. But all such advances are to be made while embracing the sanctity of life and the value of God’s entire creation.
“She didn’t see a disabled man.”
Finding our purpose is essential to living our best lives. The candidates in last night’s Democratic Party debate each sought to convince us that their agendas for our future are best for our future.
But our greatest needs and hopes are not subject to political leadership. Or scientific or medical advances. When we choose to live for God and for others, we align our lives with our Father’s purpose. When we seek service rather than power and humility rather than control, everything changes.
Consider Wesley Hamilton.
He grew up on the streets of Kansas City, Missouri, “making bad choices and blending with the crowds,” as CNN reports. But, at twenty-two, after the birth of his daughter, he got a full-time job and walked away from toxic relationships.
Then he was shot twice and paralyzed from the waist down. He became depressed and even suicidal, but then he looked at himself through his daughter’s eyes. “She was my inspiration. She didn’t see a disabled man. She saw Daddy,” he says.
Wesley enrolled in community college and took up a weightlifting regimen. Within a year, he shed one hundred pounds. In 2015, he founded the Disabled But Not Really Foundation to give hope to others facing disabilities. He also founded the Change KC movement, a group of entrepreneurs bringing about community transformation.
Wesley Hamilton believes that “the man who shot me saved my life.” He began living for his daughter and others he can serve. And he found his best life.
The more we love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), the more we love ourselves.