Thursday, June 20, 2013

The joy of feeling small

Psalm 62:9-10 (NIV)

Surely the lowborn are but a breath,
   the highborn are but a lie.
If weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
   together they are only a breath.
There is something to be said for feeling small. Feeling big can be dangerous; I observe this when the two-year-old is convinced he can run as fast and jump as high as his older brothers. I’ve also experienced the pitfalls in my professional life. Confidence is better than constant self-deprecation, but the feelings of Proverbs 16:18 ("Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall") are all too real all too often.

But there is power in feeling small. Though I have been a husband and father for many years, I still enjoy feeling like my parents’ child. It gives me not just comfort in the present, but hope that in the future my own kids will always want to maintain that kind of relationship with me.

Of course, there is fear in being small. I realize that as much as I want to be around long enough for my adult kids to tell me they still enjoy having me as a dad, I can’t do anything to guarantee we’ll reach that day. But in a strange way this fear brings its own comfort, because weighed on balance with every other person, we’re merely a breath. None of us can guarantee anything because God prevails over all.

I’ve written before about visual cues informing awareness of my size at it relates to the planet and all of creation — in the back seat of a low-flying airplane in Montana, standing atop Pike’s Peak and at the rim of the Grand Canyon — but reminders of the relevance of one human life are all over the place. Museums and high school science and history classes are helpful as well. Or just standing in a busy train station, watching all the faces pass by, realizing they’re all people with their own lives who know hundreds of other people, none of whom have any connection to me or the hundreds I know. Yet we all share the same Earth, the same air.

Feeling small opens up a new perspective. It’s impossible (and undesirable) to escape the reality of being just a human, one of billions currently alive and long since past. But the fact I’m still able to find so much meaning in life, the blessings of family and relationship that sustain me each day, the promise of God to care for each of us individually — all these things are part of what makes like worth living.

None of us is any greater than any other in the eyes of God, but the important thing is all of us are in God’s sight. This truth will help me teach my kids to love their neighbors as they love themselves, but it also should help them see the simple value in their own life. Realizing they are loved, and were lovingly made by, a God who offers grace and peace beyond understanding, perhaps they’ll be able to see what a difference they can make in the lives of others by living in response to what God has done for all of us.

It is quite all right to feel small, precisely because God is so large. I am reminded of the hymn “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy,” and specifically this quatrain from the poem by Frederick W. Faber:
For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.
I keep reading it over and again, realizing I have nothing at all to add. To feel small is to feel loved by something larger than I can imagine. That’s an amazing place to be on this or any other night, and my prayer is to help my kids one day feel just as small and just as loved.

A prayer for June 20:

Lord, please help to remember that though I am small relative to your eternity, I still may be large in impact based on how I live and treat those around me. Lead me daily to make sure any effect I do have is positive. Help me be a force for peace, understanding and mercy. Help me raise children who are kind, gracious and forgiving. And never let me forget the power of your mercy. Amen.

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