Seeing things differently
When I look at your heavens,
The work of your fingers,
The moon and the stars that you have established;
What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
Mortals that you care for them?
Psalm 8:3-4 (NRSV)
We have moved farther out into the country, and we knew we would see some things differently out there. But we really had no idea. One morning, arising early to head to the YMCA for our workouts, we stepped out into the early morning dark to feel our breaths leaving our bodies. The sky was just magnificent. It looked like a black, velvety background with all of these little diamonds up there. So many stars. Such a deep, exhilarating and humbling experience.
I thought we saw a lot of stars where we lived before, a little closer to the town of Farmville. But this was even deeper and richer than that. We never knew that Farmville has that much ‘light pollution,’ not as much as some of the cities we have lived in or near. But there is enough to diffuse the light a little. It was great to be back in a place where your breath is held in suspension by the immensity of the sky, and the wonders of creation.
It’s good to be humbled like that. To be taken aback at creation, or maybe even at what is all-around us, closer at hand. Even if it is the folly of our experience, or the lack thereof. Being humbled is not a completely bad thing. It can teach you a thing or two, if you are not so stubborn that you refuse to listen. As Barbara Holmes wrote recently, “It is nothing short of a miracle to be situated in a cosmos that keeps its secrets but reveals enough to keep us intrigued.”
But getting back to the humility of living, she also wrote, “For the last few decades, we have glared steadily at issues of race and ethnicity and applied our best solutions, only to watch the issues return in different guises … Our chances of success are better when our efforts are invested with the humility that comes only with an inward and upward glance, for we are carrying our possibilities within the resonance of starborn and interconnected selves.”
The Psalmist goes on to write that God has made humans “… a little lower than God …,” and places them — placed us — to have “… dominion over the works of your hands.” But that word ‘dominion’ means more than to lord it over and abuse it. It means to tend to it, to take care of it, to treasure it with humility. We don’t have all the answers of taking care of the earth and each other, and our efforts to do so often leave us with deeper evidences of our brokenness. Humility has the ability to restore our humanity, and to reconnect us with others on the same starlit journey.
Rev. Dr. Tom Robinson is pastor of Farmville Presbyterian Church. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.