“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” – Acts 17:26-27
I grew up in a small coal town called Benham, Kentucky. My hometown itself is evidence that when God said people should inhabit the whole earth, he meant all the way into the nooks and crannies. Benham is tucked away in the valley at the foot of Black Mountain.
I spent the first part of my childhood attending one of the churches in the area. It was full of warm smiles and pats on the back and men who gave you candy if you smiled at them. The building was enormous, at least to me. The sanctuary was vast and tall enough to hold all the animals of Noah’s ark, I would bet. My idea was reinforced by the particular slope of the wooden roof that resembled the hull of an ark. I would often think about that Sunday school lesson during sermons. I would lay my head on my mom’s lap, replacing all but eight of us humans with animals large and small. On rainy Sundays, I could imagine how it would have sounded in the ark as the rain beat on the roof. Being inside that ark of a building let you know that, no matter what was going on or being swept away out there, you had been counted among those being saved inside.
I wonder if that’s what the architect had in mind.
Safe from whatever was going on outside that ark, I understood we had certain duties inside. I particularly remember hearing talk about how if people don’t praise God, the rocks will cry out. Maybe it was a line in a song. I don’t remember that idea because it was brought up frequently, but rather because the imagery left such an impression on me.
Just down the road between my house and the church, there was a great big rock face where the mountain had been cut deep to make a road. Both ends of the road around that bend were marked: “FALLEN ROCK ZONE.” Those were the rocks I figured on disturbing if we left off singing some Sunday. I was at once curious and terrified at the thought of what those rocks would sound like. I was also sad because I figured I’d never know either way, since I’d be in church and the rocks were a couple miles away.
Not all of us read the Bible onto our immediate landscape as literally as I did as a child. However, our landscapes are all mixed in with the way we think about God. Is that what the Architect had in mind?
We don’t have to wonder; the Bible says it’s so. He has set a time and a place so that this group of us could identify as His Mountain People. He “set these exact places where we should live” so that we could “reach out for Him and find Him.” And so many of us have.
What is it about life in these nooks and crannies that causes us to want to reach and find God? What do you think the Architect had in mind when He designed Appalachia? Did the way God made the place you live make its way into your testimony? If you have a story about it, let me know.
I will be happy to edit and post your stories here. Please comment if you are interested in sharing how God's creative work has affected your relationship with Him.