My mind’s been on the “bigness” of God lately. The theme of God’s majesty and unfathomable greatness keeps recurring.
Last week, I went to my company’s Christmas party. It was fun and I enjoyed the evening. The morning after, though, I woke up and realized I had been dreaming that I was standing at the front of the huge space we’d rented for the party, and speaking. I was holding a Bible and explaining to all my co-workers why Psalm 8 is one of my favorite Psalms. I often think of Psalm 8 as I sit in an airplane lifting off, watching the people become smaller and smaller, the buildings, too, until finally you can’t see them at all.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:3-9)
After that dream, I had the song “Meekness & Majesty” running through my head as I got ready for church. Then at church, our minister continued his Advent series on the incarnation and guess what the song after the sermon was? Yes, “Meekness & Majesty.”
Earlier in the week I mused on a little experience I’d had years ago, when I was in high school, where I felt like I got a glimpse of what it was like for God to come down from his throne and become like us. It was a momentary experience that doesn’t even sound like much when I relate it, yet it’s remained in my mind for all these years. I was sitting on a wooden deck at my brother’s house and saw an ant crawling in the crack of a board. I thought about how big I was compared to that tiny ant. Then I imagined I was telescoping slowly to the ant’s size, and just for a minute, feeling what it was like to be that small.
Earlier yet, at a Bible study meeting, I’d related the story about incarnation that Phillip Yancey told in one of his books. He explained how he had worked very hard to set up a saltwater aquarium with all the right chemicals, much work and concern.
You would think, in view of all the energy expended on their behalf that my fish would at least be grateful. Not so. Every time my shadow loomed above the tank they dove for cover into the nearest shell. They showed me one “emotion” only: fear. Although I opened the lid and dropped in food on a regular schedule, three times a day, they responded to each visit as a sure sign of my designs to torture them. I could not convince them of my true concern. To my fish I was a deity. I was too large for them, my actions, too incomprehensible. My acts of mercy they saw as cruelty; my attempts at healing they viewed as destruction. To change their perceptions, I began to see, would require a form of incarnation. I would have to become a fish and “speak to them in a language they could understand.” –The Jesus I Never Knew, Phillip Yancey
Why all these notes on the same theme? I don’t know. But when that happens to me, I feel like it’s a “still, small voice” that I should listen to. I confess I don’t ever feel like I can say, “God told me to …” do whatever. That just doesn’t happen to me. But every so often a thought keeps coming up and if I don’t act on it, I find I’m sorry later. So here I am telling you about it.
One question is, why does it feel like a good thing to be reminded how big God is and how small I am? Well, I’ll tell you why it feels like a blessing to me, and I’d love to hear why it does — or doesn’t — to you. I find comfort in knowing that what I do and say is infinitesimally small in the grand scheme of things. In my own mind, my mistakes, my thoughtless actions, my meanness, my neglect, my failures, they all seem enormous. I can easily get caught up in a spiral of despair about how I’ll never live up to the most basic standard of what it means to be a Christian. At those times, remembering that I am like the grass, that “withers and falls” (I Peter 1:24) is a comfort. Or, as Anne Lamott wrote that in 50 years, “all new people” (All New People, Anne Lamott) — puts things sharply in perspective.
I have to admit, there are times where someone will try to remind me of this and I don’t appreciate it one bit. When I’m bitterly complaining about some wrong to myself and my listener says something to remind me that whatever happened is not really such a big deal, I often resent it. It’s now, and it’s big to me, and that’s what matters! But on the whole, I find God’s “hugeness” comforting. How about you?
In this Christmas season, as we celebrate God’s incarnation, his son becoming a person, wholly like us, I am incredibly grateful. Praise God for his enormity, and for becoming teeny-tiny, for us.