There are some things we love that are too big for us.
The sea and the sky, the waves and the stars, the pearls below and the planets above–these two have always been my loves. They’re close and familiar to me; they feel of warm soles slapping against grey boardwalk planks, and of neck upstretched to see it all spread out at night. Yet they’re far and distant too, both ever stretching out of reach, out of sight, with islands and planets and worlds far away to explore.
These two are my loves, and they have been since I was young. I’m a child of the sea and the sky, a Navy daughter and a pilot’s child, exploring the aquarium in my childhood mornings and soaking up NASA documentaries at night. These two, so close and so far away, each hold a strange attraction for the astronauts and the sea sailors and for every one they touch. They are vast, they are beautiful–there are waves dancing and stars twirling and we wonder. We turn our eyes out far to sea, we turn our lenses out far to space, ever curious, ever looking, ever surprised and in awe.
Because it’s glorious what we glimpse. It’s glorious, the currents of waves hot cold crashing into each other, the cacophony of color bursting and blooming and swimming, the great silent trenches standing sentinel over their stories long told. It’s glorious, the blazing sunspots rising up like slow geysers of rainbows, the shimmering tail of a comet scattering ice like snow, the earth solemnly rising over the moon’s horizon. It’s glorious, something so different, so outside and foreign, and yet close to us, that we can’t help but wonder.
In a way, they’re like God.
We love some things that are too big for us. Yet they truly can be too big for us, too overwhelming for us. We love them, they are beautiful, but as any sailor or astronaut can tell you–they are terrible beauties indeed. We love these places, but they were not made for us, nor do they easily welcome us.
Space is cold, empty, and overwhelming in its size that will suffocate you and crush your vessel. The weight of water is overwhelming, and every beautiful rock is a treacherous snag as well. There are great creatures that pass in the deep, and heavenly bodies that sail through the sky, the great giants go by with no heed of our state. The stars offer us no place for life, while the darkness below offers up life that we dread to look upon. The ocean has no mercy; space knows no grace. There is beauty and wonder, yes, but there’s also terror and horror of that which is so alien to us.
When I consider this, something in my heart quivers. We love things that are too big for us: the ocean, the stars. But what then of God?
He is higher than the heavens. He is greater than the deep. He is completely Other from all that we’ve known. What if He is too big for us? In fact, I know that He is, and His Word has told me the same. And my heart quails, for if the ocean and space threaten to overwhelm me, what then of God, of His greatness and bigness and power and authority and glory–will it crush me under its pressure?
He has terrible beauty, He thunders and goes forth and the nations tremble, the skies flee away. The people of Israel feared at His presence upon Mt. Sinai, Isaiah fell and covered his face at the very sight of Him. He is too big, too great, will not His overwhelmingness, like that of space and sea, crush me?
But my heart takes courage, for the Creator is more than His creation.
He is power, He is something far from us, yet He is also near. As close as the warmth of those grey boards on my feet, He draws near and draws us near to Him. Isaiah cried “woe is me!” when he beheld God’s glory, but God’s response was to purify him and converse. (Isaiah 6)
He is so very different from us, and yet He is also welcoming. He calls us to come to Him (James 4:8), He prepares a feast for us (Rev 19:9), He builds a city for us (John 14:2). We cannot live in water or space, but we cannot live outside of Him.
He is power, He is terror, but He is also goodness. He is also grace. God took all of Himself, and incarnated it into that which is most familiar to us. He encased Himself in humanity, that humanity could come to Him. Somehow that makes Jesus more awe-invoking, more overwhelming, and yet closer to us as well.
God is filled with terrible beauty, yes, but that beauty no longer holds any terror for us. For it is no longer against us, and we are no longer separated from it. We are in Him. We have a place in the overwhelming presence of the Lord, for in reality we are being restored to where we should have been all along. The presence of God can be a terrible place, fatal for those like Uzza, but now by the blood of Jesus we can boldly enter it. The overwhelming greatness of God is matched and completed by His overwhelming love that offered Himself as the bridge between us and Him.
We love something that is too big for us, yes. But that’s because He first loved us, and His love for us is too big for us to ever comprehend. God’s greatness and power is overwhelming–but His love and mercy and grace are even more so. We draw close to the Divine, we walk among mysteries and something Other than us, because that Other became us. And now we can rejoice and have abundant life in Him.
Terror is transformed into joy; fear into gratefulness–all in Christ Jesus.
And one day, when He makes the world new, perhaps even our loves of the sea and space will hold no fear again.