if you’ve ever been absolutely dwarfed by a situation, maybe for years at a time, you’d know this feeling well. feeling helpless, overwhelmed, not quite depressed but just utterly powerless to do anything that would change anything at all. sometimes the problem is just too massive, or too deeply rooted, or just too difficult. i see it every day in other people’s stories too…a child with cancer; a long, draining legal struggle over a piece of real estate; a financial crisis with no end in sight; there are many out there with different circumstances but the same basic feeling.
at first, feeling powerless is debilitating. you just stop trying, well, because what did trying get you? sometimes even our best efforts fall short, again and again. i lived here for a long time, just frustrated and confused and out of strength to even care. i went about my life, even finding great joy at times but still living with that shrinking feeling that at some point these issues would just rise right over the top of me and drown me forever. i even stopped praying about it for a while because it just seemed fruitless.
one day recently i was going through old photos of family trips and pulled out a bunch that really struck me. when i went back through those photos there was a common theme that seemed to tie them together but i couldn’t quite put my finger on it. so away they went, in a neat little pile on my desk along with 34 other little piles of stuff that i would go through later. it wasn’t until last week when i did an 8 mile race on Kauai’s beautiful north shore, when i stood at the crack of dawn, in the pouring rain with 300 other people, that i realized what the common theme was in all those photos i had set aside.
there’s something about being in the midst of something so much bigger than you that has always captured our attention as humans. the grand canyon. mount everest. the lights of new york. seeing the pacific ocean for the first time. fishing in a quiet ravine. hiking on a ridge with ocean and mountain views on either side. small, quiet revelations are often the most wonderful, giving you time to fully process the lessons you were surrounded with all the while.
from the northernmost point of Kauai’s north shore, heavy with mosquitos and damp tropical air, with banyan vines hanging all around and wild ginger growing by the roadside, we ran, jogged, walked, or in my case, waddled through 8 rainy miles of some of the most beautiful scenery. we walked in the shadow of the mountains to the right and gazed at the misty ocean to the left, the sound of the crashing waves filling our ears constantly for those few hours.
many runners may say that when they run, they feel powerful, and i’ve definitely experienced the euphoria of feeling accomplished and strong during a run, but i tend to feel completely different when i run. i look around me as the scenery passes by, predictably in slow motion since i jog more than i run, but after miles and miles you start to feel like a tiny ant crossing the driveway, like you could run forever and never reach the end of anything at all. and it doesn’t make me feel small and powerless. it reminds me that i AM small and powerless.
really, in the grand scheme of life, i do have power over some very small but important things, like the tone of voice i take with my kids when my patience has run out, or the choices i make in how we steward our money or live sustainably, or the way i treat the crazy people who drive like maniacs. but really, there’s not a whole lot i can control, and i think deep down inside we all know this, and that is why we love to go places and do things that make us feel small and powerless. because even as narcissistic and selfish of a society we have become, we have been created in the image of a Creator God who loves beautiful things and has wired that into us.
for every selfie that someone takes to make themselves feel more beautiful or to cement in their minds that they are worthy, a loving God is waiting for them to find themselves dwarfed by the vastness of His creation, to know that they ARE worthy. for every person who is looking for identity in their position at work or in finding that dream career, there is a God who knew them before they were formed in their mother’s womb, and who designed them uniquely and with purpose to do good things in the world and who is just waiting for them to give up that unreachable goal of a perfect life.
when we find ourselves lost in all the beauty — the unimaginable wildness of southwestern red rock deserts and crimson shimmering sunsets, the peace found in the majestic thousand year old growth redwood forests of northern California, the glittering snow capped Himalayan mountains overlooking crystal clear glacier lakes in Northern India–somehow that need to be recognized, to be important, to MATTER…is absorbed by the sheer fact that we will never be enough on our own, but we are enough because we are loved. it takes the aimless trying out of the equation, the constant grasping to hold up a facade of perfection in a world that will never be pleased with who we are because its ideal is constantly changing.
in an almost 10 year sort of quest to find answers and get resolution to a deep rooted issue i was facing, i suddenly realized what my little pile of photos was there for. none were close-up portraits, but instead, they were all faraway landscape shots i had taken to show the gigantic scale of where we were. my little kids like specks at the bottom of a giant redwood tree. my husband and daughter in front of a huge snowy mountain. my boys making crazy faces in front of a giant rock on the Oregon coast.
God allows us to feel utterly dwarfed by our circumstances because our views of Him are far too small. as God spoke to me these past few weeks the one thing He kept saying was that He was bigger than all of it, and at the point where I stopped praying and asking for His help, there was the point where I needed my faith to grow and my understanding of the vastness of God to grow as well.
if we are never completely overwhelmed by problems far to big for us to solve, we will never understand the the limitless nature of a God who spoke everything into being from NOTHING. a God who could EXIST alongside nothingness and bring life and beauty out of His sheer being. without the experience of being drowned in pain and sorrow and frustration and rage and heartbreak– we would never be able to experience MORE of God, more of His love and grace and mercy. without going for long stretches of time without answers, we will never understand that He is the answer and that we can fully trust Him to do what He does best- take care of us, gently teach us and mold us into people who can overcome the hurt in our lives to give more love and more grace. somehow when we are broken beyond repair, just tiny specks of sand in a never ending ocean of lies and mistakes and heartbreak and sadness, we can find perfect healing in the One who made the ocean and has numbered every grain of sand.
Psalm 46: 1-3
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
a great new worship album came out this week- perfect timing for me and many others i’m sure. For All Seasons vol.2 (live)
one of my favorites on the album is titled “Bigger Than”…check it out here!