This comedian came to town and the town turned out to listen because Hey! who couldn’t use a few laughs. He went down a list of ten things people are more afraid of then dying and I found myself squeezing my legs together (birthed three babies, remember?) and wiping my tears because until you hear it from a microphone, it’s hard to see your own silliness.
Somewhere around number four, or maybe number three in the countdown? A fear of wide open spaces.
A fear the comedian assured us no one whose ever driven through this part of the world could ever claim. With miles and miles of wide flat land and not a single tree silhouetted against the backdrop of the whole entire sky, he may have been right.
I can’t tell you how many times even with my breath turning to frost right in front of my face, I’ve cradled my coffee cup and stepped outside to get a glimpse of the Glory before me. And it makes me feel small. This ministry of the sky that reminds me that this world existed before me, and will go on after me. That the world will keep turning and the sun will keep rising if I never do a darn thing.
The sky puts me in my place every single morning.
So maybe I let a self-satisfied smile drift across my face. Afraid of wide open spaces? I don’t think so.
I don’t at all mind feeling small against the vast wilderness of sky that invades my day and defines my life.
It happened three times in the last week. Well meaning hearts just wanting to let me know what people were saying about me. About my choices. The choices that have made up my life. I heard three times in one week just exactly what people in this town think about my life.
And it made me feel small.
And the small made me feel afraid.
And there I was back in that barn, but this time a little less sure about people from around here never being afraid of wide open spaces. If I could have crawled into a cave this week and hid out until summer came again, I just might have done it. It’s too bad that around here there isn’t anywhere you can hide for miles around.
It made me wonder? It I can stand before a wild painted sunrise in a world spinning out of control and let it remind me how big my God really is, could I possibly stand before the spin cycle of gossip and let it remind me how sweet my Savior is?
It turns out all those mornings with the coffee and a front row view were just practice, just the learning of the thing so that when the real thing came I was ready for it, so that I could see it for what it was…
A chance to get small. To practice standing firm in the great wide open and know that even my best efforts to control the world were a bit silly. As were my efforts to control peoples’ perception of me.
It’s not a natural position, now a days for sure, if it ever was, which I doubt. We can control our thermostats from our phones, our cars can practically drives themselves to destinations with very little chance of losing our way and having to find it again. If we aren’t careful, we can come to loom large in our own lives. We start believing not only that we can, but that we have a responsibility to manage every detail.
The problem with that is this: If we get in a habit of feeling in control when something inevitably spins out of control we loose our footing. We fall for lies, we fall on our face.
So, I sat down and I made a list of things that make me feel small, in the good way like sitting down right where the waves break and trying to stay upright while they wash over you. Hopping on a mountain trail only to realize the trek will leave me only enough breath to worship God for His creation. Standing in the middle of a bustling airport and acknowledging the world is wider and His people brighter than my imagination usually stretches. Listening to my kids wonder and create and know that I couldn’t have formed those thoughts for them if I’d tried.
Then I made the other list, the things that make me feel small in bad way, like the dull roar of realizing you weren’t invited to the party, the sharp ache of forgetting an appointment for your kid, the low-key anxiety of having someone off-handedly question your carefully considered life choices, someone criticizing your kids’ by asking if you considered such and such.
This is what I realized…they are the same. The good small and the bad small. The only difference? One is between us and God, where we feel safe, loved, and held. The other? Is between us and the world.
But the question, the question stays the same…Can I trust you Lord?
Can I trust you with Creation? Can I trust you with the Created ones? Can I trust you with my body? Can I trust you to keep the world spinning? Can I trust you to keep my world spinning?
And here is the truth: When the world makes us feel small, we better have practiced seeing our God as big.
It’s a spiritual practice. Finding a place where you can kneel low and feel small and look up to God so that when the world knocks you down, your familiar here and you know where to look.
We must remind ourselves daily. Because surely the day will come when we are forced to feels small. If we’ve already practiced making God big? Well then, we are already in a good place.
In a world that is designed for our comfort. A world in which we can stock up and hide away. A world where we never have to face anything we don’t want to, I’m wondering…How do you practice the Spiritual Discipline of Feeling Small?