Tuesday, October 10, 2006

God and butterflies

The Grand Canyon is just plain huge. I mean it’s vast, enormous, massive, colossal… whatever string of adjectives relating to grandness might finally get you to the sum of its immensity. It just kind of takes your breath away when you walk up to the edge for the first time. The Grand Canyon redefines everything you knew about what a canyon could be.

Being the adventurous, outdoorsy type, I will never be content standing behind a railing when looking at such things. I don’t want to peak over the edge from behind bars and chain-link fencing, designed to protect kids and camera happy tourists who might fall off the cliff. So I wander away from the designated, safe overlooks and find the natural edge. I want to sit there on the threshold of chasm to take in the Canyon

But then there is that something in me that says that sitting there still isn’t enough. It still retains some timidity and tameness, and this Canyon is neither timid nor tame in its grandeur. To really experience it as I desire to demands something more of me: courage and risk. So I dangle my legs over the edge of the precipice. Butterflies fill my stomach and all my feelings of security are stolen away. This is scary.

And unsafe, really (my mother would kill me). But do I want to be safe? Is that what I want more than anything when I approach such places of wonder? Or do I want to force myself not only to view the Canyon’s vastness, but also to face its depth? Yes. Something in my heart wants to not only see its beauty, but also sense its danger. Safety and distant observation are not all I want to know of this Canyon. I do not just want to appreciate it. I want to fear it.

I’ve been thinking about it ever since returning from that gargantuan hole in the ground, and I am realizing that I want to approach God the same way. No matter how numb I sometimes get to it, God is much like the Canyon he carved- vast, deep, awe-inspiring, beautiful and dangerous. We forget sometimes that, without Jesus, we wouldn’t be able to approach God’s throne at all. I mean, Moses asked to see God’s face and had to accept that if he really looked straight into it, the sheer glory would kill him. Kind of like a freefall into the Canyon would. God is gracious and loving and kind, but he is also “terrible in splendor”. He is holy and powerful and…well, no string of adjectives will ever quite sum it up.

Despite that, God has been inviting his people into relationship with him since the beginning of time. He allows us to walk right up to the edge and glimpse something of his powerful glory. He lets us look into the vastness that is his character, the way an awestruck visitor stares out at a Canyon whose breadth and depth they will never quite be able to take in. I fear, though, that we do a lot of this from behind railings and protective fences. We want to appreciate God, to praise his beauty, but we aren’t sure we want to sense his danger.

Looking back, I know that I would have missed something had I not sat there on the edge half-terrified. I would have known the Canyon’s greatness only in part, only as a safe spectator. I do not want to make such a mistake with God, either. There is something of his greatness, his awe-inspiring is-ness, that I will only know if I walk right up to the edge and dangle my legs over his glory. Only then will I feel the weight of that glory, like I felt gravity pressing on my feet as they hung over the chasm. I want to know God in his danger.

I want to know him with butterflies.

1 comment:

Carrie said...

Amazingly well spoken, challenging and inspiring writing.
I love how you inhabit your days and fear God with butterflies.
Interesting how butterflies represent fear (a feeling of uneasiness in the stomach, fragility (we must trust God for each of our days, and hope (beauty emerges after extensive metamorphosis). Funny, just before I read this I posted a pic of a butterfly—thinking the poem I posted epitomizes you.