Monday, November 4, 2013

A Birdseye View

I love to look at aerial photos of marathons.  You might think I feel this way because I'm inspired by a mass of humanity striving towards a goal.  I suppose I should, but that's not the reason.  Besides, it's a race; so even though they are in mass moving toward a prize, they are competing with each other--not exactly a model of cooperative human achievement.  However, I suppose at any given race there are those whose sole objective is to win at all costs, and those running to prove something to themselves or others who might be watching them, and those who are running simply to give meaning to all the long hours of exercise and training.  For most people involved, the marathon is a social event and therefore a good picture of the human community.  This is good, and I doff my hat to them, but it is not what it is about these birds eye view glimpses of these meets that captures my imagination.

What I think about when looking at these pictures is how each one of those dots of color is a person. And as such, each one comes with his or her own life.  Each one has dreams, ambitions, loves, hates, fears, pasts, secrets, hurts, gifts, joys, and heartaches.  All of them have sandwiched themselves together--perhaps for the first and last time--and then separate according to ability.  At the end of the day, most will have crossed the finished line.  The winner will carry his or her reward home; the rest will mark off the experience with a joy of accomplishment, a bested time, or a charlie horse.  And some had earlier dropped out along the way.  But flying high above them, I don't know them or their outcomes; I only see tiny figurines.  And I marvel how this is only a small sampling of the human race--past, present, and future.  I'm struck by an indescribable sense of wonder.

There is, of course, another perspective of this spectacle.  I'm reminded of the scene in the movie The Third Man, where Harry Lime is talking with his best friend while riding in a gondola on a Ferris wheel. Harry's friend had learned of Lime's nefarious activities of killing little children through a black marketing scam.  Lime justifies himself by asking his friend if he had the chance to make ten or twenty thousand dollars, but it would mean some of those dots moving around below would have to disappear, wouldn't he do it?  Therefore some people looking at the same aerial photo I am don't see persons, they see opportunities to advance themselves.  The grim truth is even if they were to come face to face with some of those dots, they will still see them as objects.  How else can you explain the long history of exploitation, murder, and betrayal?

Fortunately for all of us, God does not see us this way.  The really amazing thing about looking at that aerial picture is it is in one sense exactly how God sees us.  God sees us as a collective--as a community--and smiles broadly because He created us to be a community with Him; this is what is meant by the kingdom of God. It is the wonderful gift of Christ that we can be a community of people who love each other--mutually supporting each other for the benefit of the other so the created purpose of God's kingdom is accomplished.  God wants His kingdom to be unified, and has accomplished this in Christ--such a picture of beauty for us to contemplate.

Yet God is not only interested in the collective; God cherishes each individual as if each one were the only one.  When God looks down and sees the sea of dots, He sees persons.  And not only does He see them as persons, He knows each one of those dots intimately in every way, even much more than the persons know themselves.  And this knowledge is not just analytical on God's part, but the result of a deep abiding investment of love for each person because He has ascribed great worth to each of them. This is perhaps the most beautiful thing of all: "what is man that you are mindful of him..." says the Psalmist.  Do you now begin to understand how much God loves you?

Even though from God's birds eye view you might think you are but a mere speck to Him. Think again; you are a precious child He longs to embrace with love that is life forever.