Rev. Chip Hammond
“Your Daddy’s tired. Not tonight, Honey.”
My wife was right. It had been a tough week. Just back from visiting family over Christmas, I had started the week with a stomach virus, and had to rush to get everything done in time for the Sunday we had just finished. Saturday had been my birthday, and my wife had invited “a few” (= dozens of) people to stop by. It was a great day, but I was exhausted at the end of it. Sunday had been a long day too – a good day, but a long day, with Fellowship Dinner and the Lord’s Supper. I was up early to pray and prepare, and the day didn’t get off to a great start. Rebecca, who had not had any seizures since the second week in December, had a very long and severe one that morning. As we were leaving Church, she had another and fell down hard, hitting her head and cutting her hand.
Nathan, who was wearing a plastic fireman’s hat, tried hard to conceal the look of disappointment on his face. “OK, Mommy” he dutifully said, the package clutched tightly to his chest.
Nathan likes to know how things work. He hovers over my shoulder whenever I take anything apart. He and I have spent time in the basement assembling the remnants of broken toys into simple circuits. One of his most prized possessions is a photosensitive robot that he and I built from a kit.
For Christmas he had gotten a simple radio kit – antenna, coil, ground and a simple crystal diode. From his perspective, Christmas was a long time ago and this thing was still in need of being built. Church was over now and building that radio seemed like a good way to end the day with his Dad.
Much as I appreciated my wife’s protectiveness and wanted to give in to my fatigue, for some inexplicable reason I said, “Let’s build your radio Nathan.” His mouth turned up into a grin, revealing a conspicuous hole where two front teeth had recently been. He opened the box, and after examining the parts carefully, he looked at the wiring diagram. “This is ground, Daddy” he said as his eyes flitted over the schematic. “Here’s where the diode goes.”
It didn’t take too long. Spring connectors meant that no soldering was involved. We placed his radio on the window sill and strung the antenna across a curtain rod and connected the ground wire to the screw on an outlet plate.
He put the speaker in his ear and slowly turned the variable capacitor. “I hear noise Daddy.” I put my head against his to hear. “Yes, Nathan. That’s the sound of creation.”
In 1929 Edwin Hubble had made a remarkable discovery – the universe is expanding. To that point most astronomers and physicists had believed the universe was eternal. The implications of Hubble’s discovery caused an astronomical paradigm shift. The universe had a beginning! Once there was no universe. Then what would become the organized cosmos exploded into existence. The energy generated at that event still permeates the universe. You see it whenever your turn on a TV that is receiving no broadcasted signal. You hear it whenever you listen to a radio that is not tuned to a station. We often call it “static,” but in fact we are listening to the creation of the cosmos.
He slowly dialed the capacitor. His eyes lit up. He heard a voice! And he started to repeat it: “Jesus . . . . died for our and sins . . . . and rose again . . . . from the dead.” His little unpowered radio had nothing to boost the signal. It was at the mercy of whatever it could pick up, and what it could pick up was some obscure Christian broadcast. It was not clear – it competed with the static – but it was unmistakable.
As he listened I got a call from one of our deacons. When I got off the phone, I heard subtle snoring. I walked in to the dining room to see all the chairs lined up in a row in front of the window sill, a pillow and blanket from the family room providing makeshift bedding. There was Nathan stretched out across the chairs, fast asleep, the earpiece still in his ear as he listened to the sound of creation and the story of redemption. “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).
I really was too tired to build that radio that night. My instinct was to protect what little strength I had left, not to spend it on building a radio. But the effort was not as great as I had imagined, and there was an unexpected reward in doing it. Little could I ever have imagined what a teachable moment building that radio would bring, and how my precious seven-year-old son would be confronted yet again that day by the God who created him and who loved him so much that he sent his own Son to die for him. I wonder if he drifted off to sleep with the unarticulated thought: “God and the gospel are everywhere.”
And I was glad I hadn’t said, “I’m too tired, Nathan.” I lost some rest that night. I gained something more valuable.