Monday, May 17, 2010

Looking Up and Looking Down

Sometimes, I catch myself looking up. The call of a bird, the hum of an airplane, a passing shadow, a cloud – these draw my gaze upward. At night, I watch the stars pop out one by one, bursting through the darkness in brilliant beauty. I can hardly hold my head still as the wonders of the sky spin me dizzy just trying to keep up with it all.

In those moments, I know God must be up there.

It’s not always obvious what He’s doing or just what he’s up to up there, but it must be something magnificent. How else can you explain the phenomenon of a rainbow or the way the clouds pull together just before rain falls? How else could the Earth stay in orbit so perfectly around the sun, with each day coming and going exactly as the last? It’s incredible.

But when I find myself looking up, it sets my mind wandering, too. Just where is God? Is He behind that cloud? That bird? Am I even looking in the right direction or is He somewhere beside or behind me, puttering about in some corner of the Heavens that I cannot immediately see?

Because that’s how it works when you’re looking up: you develop this sort of tunnel vision. Whatever you look at draws into focus while the periphery blurs away. If you want to see more of what you’re seeing, if you want to follow the flight of the eagle, you have to keep your eyes focused. You have to keep moving, keep changing direction.

When it works as it is supposed to, you hardly notice. You might feel a little dizziness for a moment, but the beauty of the moment takes that all away. It’s when you start to move and run smack into the tree you thought you passed a minute ago or the same rock presses into the ball of your foot just as it did before the eagle caught your eye that you realize you’ve been spinning. You shake your head for a minute and laugh.

That eagle was worth it.

All of this has me thinking – it has me thinking about the way I look up to and follow God. Am I watching Him in wonder or am I aware of my spinning? Do I constantly look down to make sure my feet are on solid ground or am I lost in the moment? Can my focus stay clear and follow Him through the Heavens…or am I missing something? He glides into the glare of the Son, and for a minute, I lose Him. Or have I? I dare not look away. It is all too glorious.

Then, I pause. How is it that He sets me spinning, laboring to follow Him in the movement of the moment, and yet He is constant? He stays the same, not spinning as I am nor shielding His eyes. He never loses sight of me, never has to gather Himself and re-locate this daughter.

What’s up with that?

Suddenly, it strikes me: He’s looking down. You know that feeling. It is the mountaintop experience – literally. It is when you’re perched just right at the height of the world that the expanses open before you. Everything stretches out before your eyes in the same focus. You see it all! The house with a puff of smoke billowing from the chimney. Three cars stopped at an intersection, debating who has the right of way. A young child riding a bicycle. Another skipping rope. There is nothing beyond your vision, beyond your sight.

All of it, you would miss if you were somehow beneath it all…looking up. Maybe you’d see the front door of the house, but the eave would block the chimney. One or two cars might shade your peripheral vision, but could you see all three? Before you know it, the sound of a bicycle whizzes by, but you’ve got to look and see where the noise is coming from. Because you’re stuck looking up, where you’ve got to be very purposeful about your vision. Spend too much time staring at the wrong thing, and you’re bound to be hit by an oncoming train eventually.

You just can’t see it all looking up. That’s why it’s important to know what you’re looking for. Or rather, Who. You’re looking for the One Who is up there looking down, the One Who sees it all spreading out before Him. The One Who has the perfect angle for guidance and wisdom and protection.

Once you find that One and your eyes lock, you know He will protect you. He’s watching out for you, watching over the things you cannot see because of the angle of your vision. He will guide you, spin you around as you continue your focus on Him. If you lose yourself in the moment, in the beauty, in the awe of the experience, you won’t even feel the dizziness. You won’t be left disoriented. No, your feet will always be pointed in the right direction.

The direction that the One looking down can obviously see that the one looking up needs to move. That is the beauty of God.

(This is just one of many positions God takes in our lives. This is the amazing power of His omnipresence. He can stay above us looking down, watching and guiding our paths, while at the same time walking beside us in strength and ahead of us in leadership and behind us as a catalyst and in a whole different place, preparing the way for us. It just happens that I was thinking about His looking down this week…as I desperately looked up in the hope and promise of His goodness.)

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