You may have never seen the 1998 science-fiction/disaster movie, but I’m fairly certain you’ve heard the first song on the soundtrack: I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.
Rolling Stone magazine included this song in a list of the “25 greatest slow songs ever,” and 20 years later, it remains a mainstay at school and wedding dances.
Even if you don’t know the title, you’re almost certain to recognize it with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame belting out the chorus:
Don’t want to close my eyes, I don’t want to fall asleep
Cause I’d miss you, baby, and I don’t wanna miss a thing
Cause even when I dream of you, the sweetest dream would never do
I’d still miss you, baby, and I don’t want to miss a thing
It’s not deep theology, and I wouldn’t suggest it’s particularly profound love poetry. What it does do, however, is capture one of the most overwhelming sentiments found in young love: the fact you can’t see beyond the excitement and the emotion, and how you just don’t want to leave that moment because you “don’t want to miss a thing.”
I got to thinking about that song and sentiment as I was reading the story of the tower of Babel found in Genesis 11. We read how humankind has settled in the land of Shinar, is speaking one language, and is working together for a singular purpose. This common purpose reaches its height in a construction project, as they decide to build a city and monumental tower as a testament to their potential.
At first reading, it seems like this must worry or frighten God enough that He confuses their language and scatters them throughout the world (leaving us with the situation we find ourselves in today, with a variety of cultures, languages, and traditions.)
That reading of this story makes God seem awfully mean-spirited, and doesn’t fit in with much else of what we read of His motivations and actions anywhere else in scripture.
Reading a little deeper into what we know of the people who built this city, I began to wonder if they didn’t have that same wish that was expressed in I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.
Think about it: they’re living in a community where everyone seems to be of one heart and one mind, speaking in the same language.
The cooperation there must have been extraordinary. Living in that community must have felt like a blessed existence. It’s entirely possible that the purpose in building the city and tower reflected their desire not to “miss a thing” – not wanting to leave the moment in which they find themselves.
I think this is a pretty common experience. Many of us experience a season in life that we don’t want to leave, whether it be a relationship, a holiday, or a community of people we’ve grown to love. We are the ones who don’t want to miss a thing, and we can find it hard to imagine life could be any better than it is right now.
The problem with this way of seeing life is that it’s bound to come to an end.
The experience of new love wears off, and is either replaced by a deeper love or comes to an end. The beauty of a sunset or the northern lights passes away.
Communities come together for a season, but then someone is called away or chooses to move on for a variety of reasons. This is one of the reasons Jesus tells Nicodemus that: “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)
We hear clearly that we are neither meant to grasp at control of our lives nor to stay in a particular season or moment – no matter how beautiful that moment might seem to be.
From God’s perspective, the events in Shinar were concerning not because He feels somehow threatened by the city or by the tower, but rather because, like Adam and Eve before them, they are grasping at a sense of security and control that this life simply doesn’t have to offer.
God’s choice to scatter and confuse is less about His fear of what we might accomplish or some kind of power play; it’s a remedial solution to a problem the people of Shinar had not yet seen. They were in a moment of tremendous pride at all they had accomplished on their own – but it seems they had forgotten God. In His choice to end the project and scatter them, God moved them from pride to humility. He allowed them to be confused in order that they might come to recognize their dependence on God.
As we face similar moments and similar circumstances, we ought to thank God for the gift of young love, of beauty, of community, or any other good moment that gives us that sense of “not wanting to miss a thing.” But we don’t need to be afraid because we have a God who has dreamed for far more wonderful experiences than these.
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9