This is my thinkin’ time of year. Spring has sprung and along with the billowing clouds of yellow death wafting through the air, there’s all the attendant chores and spring cleaning to be done. In my humble opinion, there’s no better time to get your really heavy-duty thinking done than when you’re elbow deep in dirt and earthworms. It’s also the best time of the year to feel small.
I shall not bear false witness, so I’ll admit straight up that it’s been quite a while since my backside found a seat on a church pew. But that doesn’t mean I’ve been neglecting my Lord. He and I have a unique relationship and I think that as I’ve gotten older and wiser, He and I have reached an understanding about worship. Everyone has their own brand and their own way, traditionally by attending church. My way is to find God unexpectedly, in overlooked places, and to appreciate Him in that moment. And when I feel His presence most, and feel most connected, is when I feel the smallest.
Let me explain.
A particle of light can take 100,000 years to journey from the center of our sun to the surface, but then only takes eight and a half minutes to travel 93 million miles across space to hit the earth. Take a moment and think about that. Every bit of sunlight striking you, your car, your pet, your house, the streets, the trees, everything, was bouncing around in the center of our sun when humans were just learning to hit each other with sticks and rocks. Does that make you feel insignificant? Think of standing on the beach, staring out over the great expanse of water. Countless billions of gallons, churning and flowing, filled with life of every size and description. Billions of particles of sand on the beach, every tiny grain of which was once the body of a creature or a larger rock, but time has worked its transformational miracle and now it sloughs your feet to baby-softness. Does your life feel fleeting, compared to the ageless waves? Think of standing on a mountaintop, looking over the terrain as it falls away before you in a palette of blues, greens and purples. Those mountains were formed by incredible tectonic forces, moving and shaping the earth often millimeters at a time. And time will continue to work the terrain, wearing down the mountains even as new ones are thrust upward to take their place. Do you feel light and unburdened, compared to the crushing mass of a mountain?
Now think of spring planting. There is a simple and satisfying feeling in poking a seed or sprout into the ground and nurturing it to health, abundance and beauty. Every time I walk to the garden, I think of the Lord planting us all in His garden. Some of us are planted in good soil with plenty of sunshine and rain. Some of us start off a little more rocky. But the Lord wants each and every one of us to grow and prosper and bear fruit. This is what I think of when I have an aching back and dirt under my fingernails. Because as I plant these tiny bulbs and step back to pray that they grow, I know the Lord is doing the same for us.
The Lord made the sun and earth, with the oceans and mountains and big open skies. And yet He still remembered to make me. When you look at the miracles we are surrounded with literally every day of our lives, knowing that the Lord still cares about me and my life makes me feel incredibly tiny and oh-so-special. It makes me feel overwhelmingly grateful. Standing next to the ocean, or on top of a mountain, it can be easy to feel small. Try to find smallness today in the particles of light touching your skin, or the tiny johnny jump-ups flowering your yard, or the peculiar pattern of the shadows under a tree.
Carl Sagan has two great quotes that I’ve loved for many years, and I think they sum up feeling small very well:
“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light‐years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.”
“For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.”
Today, and every day for the rest of your life, I hope you feel small.
-by Julie Jones