Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
at best, each of us is but a breath.
I've found myself seeking wide open spaces lately (cue the old Dixie Chicks tune). Something has been drawing me to locations where I am just a speck in the midst of something much bigger. Sometimes it's alone, sometimes with my family. Sometimes while I'm driving, and sometimes it's on a walk or a run. So I've been thinking about how big the world is, and how small I am. And that's not a bad thing.
Have you ever really entered into a news story from another country? Or spoken with someone whose work and sphere of relationships is completely independent of yours? If you do that enough, at one point you will begin to realize that you can live or die, and it will have zero impact on that country. Zero impact on those people. Zero impact on so much of the world. After all, your'e one of about 8 billion people. That's a whopping .000000013% of our world. But don't get depressed...
There's something about stepping back from our current climate of out-of-control stress, anxiety, and hyper-divisive thought patterns that a little insignificance can help with. It can remind us that our role is that of supporting cast and not starring character.
I've often thought David's words above were about asking God to remind him to "seize the day" and make the most of every opportunity. But David was a king, with incredible stress and strain. Maybe his prayer was not simply about asking God to help him make the most of his short life, but about asking God to give him perspective when his stress or self importance got out of control.
My friend Lori has been sensing the same thing as me in her own life, and this week she used the phrase "small in a good way" to talk about how God is keeping her soul intact as she does the incredibly vital work of caring for homeless families day after day. I like that phrase. If we think it all depends on us, we'll miss the good news of Jesus.
We are each the center of our own universes. But we are very much not the center of THE universe. When we acknowledge that we're like a grain of sand, a blade of grass, a vanishing mist... we are invited to live well with Jesus in new ways. We are set free to receive the gift of limits.We are allowed to really rest, trusting that all of reality and the success of the future does not depend on our 24/7 connectedness. The news stories will still be reported tomorrow. And are you really that indispensable that you need to check your email at 11pm?
Embracing our lives as a breath also helps us realize that our cares and stresses and joys and sadnesses are not more significant than our neighbor's. Acknowledging our smallness becomes a way to help us "do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves," as Paul encourages in his letter to the Philippian church. We love better when we know that we're not all that.
Life in Christ is a life of walking beyond the dualism that we are presented with. As we mature in faith, we learn to hold things in tension that seem like opposites at first glance.
We are both incredibly insignificant and infinitely valuable as uniquely and personally loved children of God.
Our lives are both a short breath and the prelude to life forever with God.
The things we accomplish are both limited in scale and participating in building the very Kingdom of God that Jesus inaugurated!
These are paradoxes. And grasping them in a time of stress and turmoil helps remind us that we are small, but in a good way.
So rest. And work. What do you matters so much. And yet the world is bigger than any of us, and God is trustworthy in it all, even without you. Receive the peace of Jesus.
Jesus, help me do what is mine to do today, and rest in being one small part of your glorious creation.