Perspective can make all the difference in the way we perceive and understand anything. Our view from a position under the canopy of a dense forest will be different than our view from a drone in the same location flying over the same forest canopy. The higher we fly that drone, the more our perspective expands and understanding of our location grows.
From a great height, we see the expanse and contours of the forest, the streams and rivers that run through and beyond it, the mountains in and the oceans in the distance where the forest transitions into the hills, the foothills, the mountains slopes and the peaks in one direction, and the openings, meadow, plains, and coastlands in another direction.
The higher we go and farther out we see, the more we see and understand the forest in relation to other geographical features that surround it and the savannas, valleys, deserts, and coastlands and oceans in the grater world beyond the forest.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
This verse has become so often quoted that it might seem trite to us. “Yea, yea!” we say. “We need to trust God. I get it.”
It’s hard to grasp and trust in the perspective God has from our place where light filters sparingly through the forest canopy. Our perspective is not much better in the barren expanse of a vast desert or on the waves of a vast ocean as far as the human eye can see. Knowing that the forest canopy, barren desert or vast ocean gives way to a different reality can seem like a small consolation from where we stand.
We have a harder time grasping and appreciating that God sees out over the universe where our planet sits tucked among other planets circling the sun in an opportune place in the Milky Way solar system where we peer out, however tentatively, into an expanse of other solar systems stretching out in all directions beyond our capabilities even to observe.
Ninety five percent of the universe we can see is comprised of dark matter and dark energy that we know exists, but we cannot even observe. Mystery surrounds us in every direction and beyond our capability to go or even to glimpse.
We can perceive and feel our way to understand that time had a beginning at the point of a quantum vacuum, but we can go no further even to perceive, but for speculation, what lies beyond. We are left to grasp by pure faith that God initiated the universe into being by His very Word and expends still into some unknown future and “void”.
We understand, only darkly, that God’s vantage point extends before time, space, matter or energy even formed. We struggle to understand that time plays out from the present into some future that no human eye can see nor human heart can even imagine. (1 Corinthians 2:9)
We cannot see the scope of God’s work from beginning to end (Ecclesiastes 3:11), but we “know” by faith that God can see it, and He does see it. (Hebrews 11:1) He set the universe in motion, and He knows how it will play out.
The question, then, becomes: Do we trust Him?
Maybe we should ask: Why would we ever trust ourselves to know any better than God does?
The resounding answer is that we can’t.
We might simply accept the inevitable conclusion that we don’t know and we can’t know the beginning from the end (let alone much about in the “middle” where we stand under the canopy of our “forest”), yet we have this profound, ineffable sense of the more-than-we-know, more than we perceive clearly or understand. That sensibility has driven humans from the dawn of humanity to grasp for what is “out there” beyond or limitations. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
Into our present darkness, into human history, was born a man who claimed to know. His story has been told by a small group of people who believed that he knew of which he spoke: one who claimed to be God, born in the form of a man. Of this man, John, known as the Apostle, wrote:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness….”
This man who claimed to be God who took on human flesh provided us a perspective we lack, if we are willing to trust him. The same apostle who walked, lived, and knew that man says:
“[T]hough the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
We could simply accept our fate: this life under the canopy of our limited perspective. On the other hand, we could dare to trust the man who claimed to be God in the flesh, who spoke of a better way to be human, who spoke of love, and then demonstrated that love by giving himself up to death which he claimed was for our benefit.
We can go on living as we do, frustrated, fearing death, fearing to love as he did, fearing to live. We can go on resigning ourselves to this present darkness in our human limitations and frailties. We can learn to ignore and even to snuff out that sense of “more”.
On the other hand, what do we have to lose to let ourselves dare to believe? At worst, we might be disappointed.
We might commit ourselves to the love of which Jesus spoke, love for God and love for neighbor. We might find forgiveness for ourselves, peace in our relationships, meaning in our contribution to community, and significance to our lives only to find that we die, nevertheless, and death is all there is. Yet, even then, we will have gained a life that people intuitively know is good.
We may even find that this man was, indeed, God in the flesh, able to deliver what he promised: relationship with the Creator of the Universe in which we live as a “Father” who knows us and loves more than we could ever love another person, even ourselves. In our daring to believe, we find the perspective of which Paul the Apostle spoke:
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
1 Corinthians 13:12