Zeitgebers…(or “science declaring God’s goodness”)

Did you know there are cells in the back of our eyes called “retinal ganglion cells”, that have very little to do with actually seeing? They help us to sense light itself, and send signals to our suprachiasmatic nucleus (the part of the brain responsible for regulating our circadian rhythms), helping us to keep healthy patterns of wakeful alertness and rest. (source – “The Nocturnal Brain“)

We each have a “circadian rhythm” (circa-dian – “about a day”), and our body was created for regular periods of rest. It’s interesting that even though these are highly impacted by the sun, scientists have discovered that even the most basic life forms that live their whole lives in the darkness of caves, are still wired with circadian rhythms. We’ve been created by a God who took disorder and chaos, and brought order. Even in places where it doesn’t make sense according to evolution – creation declares the mysterious goodness of that God.

These rhythms are not fixed permanently, because we’re not robots. The German concept of “Zeitgeber” (time-giver) is used to describe something that impacts our circadian rhythm in one direction or another – nudging us to either rest earlier or stay up later – whether one time or regularly. The most powerful zeitgeber that has been discovered? Light. Especially light that includes the blue light spectrum found in sunlight. We know that the sun is highly influential, which is why when you drastically change time zones – one of the most helpful ways to quickly adapt to the new rhythm is to spend time in the sun.

The problem is – the sun is not the only source of this light. We’ve created artificial sources, and such light is found shining through our televisions, computers, our phone screens, advertisements we drive by, etc. Many modern devices allow you to “turn off” the blue light spectrum, which is great for relaxing before bedtime. But it still brings up a good point…

We’ve been created to live in the light (1 John 1:5-7). We’ve been created to have our patterns of rest and attention to be ordered by the light and love of Jesus Christ. God is the greatest and only genuine “zeitgeber” our souls were designed to receive their order from.

But here in Hungary, there have been competing “zeitgebers” of power, deception, anxiety, productivity, efficiency, pride, hard-work, fear, finances, competition, greed, etc. Notice, not all of these are inherently bad. (Also notice, most of these are not only found in Hungary.) But over time, these things begin to try and be “The” thing that sets our foundational rhythms. But these are false zeitgebers, that Jesus came long ago to set us free from serving.

This week, may we remember the words of the prophet Isaiah, which were affirmed again by Jesus, “the people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:16)

May we be alert how and when the Son of God directs our attention and heart. May we rest when and how Jesus sets us free to rest in His continued Lordship, Love, and Holy Grace…

(and may we give less value, time, and attention to false zeitgebers…)

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