Tag Archives: love

The Significance of Feeling Insignificant

 

Canyon Layers After Storm

 

As far back as I can remember, I have longed to feel that I mattered. To believe that I am somebody. To somehow find, in this crowded world of billions, even a small significance to my existence on planet earth.

To put it more accurately, I’ve been driven by the fear of being insignificant.

This fear propelled my performance in school, in work, and in relationships. And the motivation to matter did not always end well. It took more than four decades of life to begin understanding the complexities behind the drive to be accepted and acknowledged, and thankfully recent years have seen an end to this fear dominating the deep places of my being. Oh, don’t get me wrong – I still desire to live a useful life, to have some value – but it’s not the debilitating desperate pursuit it once was.

Last night as I walked up to the edge of the south rim of the Grand Canyon, I was immediately overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of this spectacular natural wonder of our world. The dimensions of this canyon opening up before my eyes my brain could not calculate. Big beyond belief. Swallowed up in these overwhelming visuals, I felt an emotion recognizable, yet also different:

I felt insignificant.

 

I've visited the Grand Canyon many times but the views still make me gasp in awe

I’ve visited the Grand Canyon many times but still gasp in awe at the views

 

But this was not the old familiar fear. It was not an emotion of tortuous longing to be somebody. It was instead a wonderfully peaceful feeling overtaking all of me. It was gratitude for being a lowly insignificant human creature, in the face of significant grandeur created by a significant God. It was the freedom and joy of knowing I no longer have to be significant in the measure of the old way, because I have found a significant rest in the One who loves me without condition.

You see, there is another canyon. Its vastness is infinite. Its depth is immeasurable. To walk up to its edge and peer over makes the heart stop in sheer awe. The Grand Canyon is a dried-up creek bed in comparison.

It is the breathtaking canyon of God’s love.

Its mind-boggling swath was carved through the rocky rebellious soil of the human heart by the unstoppable onrushing waters of the grace of Christ. The One who lived and bled and died and conquered and ascended for me, and for all weary earth travelers who simply trust in his kindness.

 

For I am convinced that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers, 
neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Romans 8:38-39)

An autumn thunderstorm passes over the grandiosity of the Grand Canyon

An autumn thunderstorm passes over the grandiosity of the Grand Canyon


I Feel You Through The Pain

 

[Note: today I share with you more images from my troubled season of 2013]

Last week I wrote about the extreme anxiety and panic that enveloped me beginning in the summer of 2013 (you can read that first part here – When Joy Breaks Into Your Suffering). Today I would like to take you a little deeper into a remarkable moment of that stressful time.

It was mid-July in Tampa, Florida. Daily torrential thunderstorms amid near-100% humidity and 90-degree temps kept me imprisoned inside. A little over a week had passed since my wife had rushed me to the emergency room late at night for sheer panic from the fear of not being able to breathe properly. The worst of that panic had subsided but I was left with a constant attack of anxious thoughts banging around somewhere in a place so deep I could not access it to tell it it quiet down.

Day after day, it was the same: all variety of fears assaulting me, a sense of impending doom, nameless dread.

One night in this harried state of mind, just before bedtime, I slid a pair of headphones over my ears and dialed up an album of worship music on my iPhone, while I paced nervously back and forth through the house. I was desperate for even a sliver of mental and emotional solace.

And then the unexpected happened. Another life moment that I had absolutely no control over. The Divine broke through.

As the music and lyrics coursed through my brain, I suddenly realized the anxious thoughts were gone – completely. In the place of those haunting voices was One voice, with a much different message than I’d been hearing lately.

It was my Maker.

And he flooded my mind with the affirmation that he has me, I am his, he isn’t going anywhere, and he loves and cares for me more deeply than I will ever be able to comprehend.

I was struck down now, not by fears, but by a pure unexplainable joy of being truly loved. I collapsed to my knees, and wept countless tears of shear joy and thankfulness.

 

Latourell Falls plunges down a lichen-covered basalt cliff in the Columbia River Gorge, OR

Latourell Falls plunges down a lichen-covered basalt cliff in the Columbia River Gorge, OR

 

I so wish this was the Happily Ever After ending. But alas, anxieties were pounding away the next morning, and in fact it would take many more months, with some very difficult times ahead, before I would be restored to sanity, peace, and solidity. But there was something significant in that moment of my God breaking through my nightmare and reminding me of his gentle love. I knew then that he would bring victory in the proper time. And that he would not forsake me no matter how long this trial would last.

It was with this heart-knowledge of God’s stunning love that I departed Florida for the trek back West that I wrote of last week. And in that journey he would remind me again and again of his love as I experienced the disarming beauty of his creation, camera in hand. Today I share with you more images made during that 2013 season of brokenness punctuated with joy.

 

I vibrant lily pad blossom brightens the banks of the Yellowstone River, Wyoming

I vibrant lily pad blossom brightens the banks of the Yellowstone River, Wyoming

 

As I sat down to write today, I reclined in a chaise lounge outside, queued up a worship song on my iPhone, and leaned back to gaze up at the sky. There were hundreds of small puffy clouds against a canvas of late-afternoon blue sky, looking like pieces of a puzzle I so wanted to put together. The music and lyrics kicked in as I admired the mysterious beauty of God’s workmanship.

And again I knew in my heart the glory of his bottomless love.

This is the song that today has me in tears of ecstatic joy. I hope something in these lyrics, or these pictures, might resonate with your own heart, wherever you may be on your journey:

 

I see you in the sunrise
I see you in the rain
I see you in the laughter
I feel you through the pain

Everything that you have made is beautiful
Oh, my God, I can’t believe my eyes
But in all of this to think that you would think of me
Makes my heart come alive

Your love is like a mighty fire deep inside my bones
I feel like I could climb a thousand mountains all at once
And I never have to wonder if somebody cares for me
I love the Maker
And the Maker loves me

I see you, you are creation
I see the grandness of your majesty
The universe is singing all your glory
I can’t believe you live inside of me

Everything that you have made is beautiful
Oh, my God, I can’t believe my eyes
But in all of this to think that you would think of me
Makes my heart come alive

Your love is like a mighty fire deep inside my bones
I feel like I could climb a thousand mountains all at once
And I never have to wonder if somebody cares for me
I love the Maker
And the Maker loves me

More than just some words upon a page
You’ve shown me in a million ways
But there is one that stands above them all
Hands of creation on a cross

Your love is like a mighty fire deep inside my bones
I feel like I could climb a thousand mountains all at once
And I never have to wonder if somebody cares for me
I love the Maker
And the Maker loves me

You can view the official music video here: The Maker by Chris August

A grove of aspen glow in the soft light of dusk along American Fork Canyon, Utah

A grove of aspen glow in the soft light of dusk along American Fork Canyon, Utah


The Most Excellent Way

 

Today as I depart a summer spent in the Northwest for six more weeks of photographic work in the Southwest, I would like to share another set of images I was blessed to make recently along the truly incredible Oregon coast. I hope through these photographs you can sense the power of the Creator, his unparalleled artistic hand, and a glimpse of his love. It is on that topic of love I am now compelled to write more about.

 

The Haceta Head Lighthouse watches over the Pacific Ocean on the central Oregon coast

The Haceta Head Lighthouse watches over the Pacific Ocean on the central Oregon coast

 

Bumper stickers can be irritating. Sure, a few resonate with me when they align with my own opinions and biases, but often times bumper stickers have provided an opportunity for me to criticize and rant about why the particular phrase is messed up, and so must be the driver of that car. One sticker in particular used to elicit from me loud groanings about how oversimplified and naive it was, that there was much more important and profound truth the vehicle owner clearly did not grasp if this was all he had to say. The bumper sticker simply read, “Love God and People.”

I’m sad to say that much of my Christian life has not been about loving, but about rule-keeping, and splitting fine hairs of doctrine. I grew up obsessed with trying to follow the law as laid down by my Christian parents, in hopes of earning their approval and love. And I became obsessed about doctrine, believing that I need to be ‘right’ about every fine point and nuance of Christian belief. This became the way I related to God for many years. My faith was focused on trying to live by rules, harshly judging myself and others when rules were broken. And an arrogance that grew in proportion to my attempt at absolute theological ‘correctness.’

What I failed to see in God’s law, in all of the scriptures, in the living out of daily faith, was the beautiful heart of God behind it, and how he summed it all up.

 

A sliver of moon highlights a coastal composition made in the waning light of dusk

A sliver of moon highlights a coastal composition made in the waning light of dusk

 

My first glimpse of light came from reading the words of Jesus in Matthew chapter 22. When one of the professional rule-keepers and theological perfectionists of the day (called a Pharisee) asked Jesus which of the hundreds of Jewish laws were most important, Jesus created the basis for a future bumper sticker with his reply:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. 

And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

These simple but profound words of Christ should have been enough to clear up any confusion and wrong-headedness, but at the time it was just a hint, a seed planted, and it would be years later that my eyes were further opened to the primacy of love. It was through the teaching and guidance of a wonderful counselor that my heart looked deeper into the truth. In Romans chapter 13 the apostle Paul writes:

“The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal, ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command:

‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

A lot of things clicked when these verses were unpacked for me. I saw God’s heart behind his commands. He wasn’t being harsh. He wasn’t trying to limit our freedom or fun. Rather, he was creating the most loving environment possible for me and my neighbor. He was seeking to protect us all from harm and help us thrive in peace and joy. I suddenly realized that all of the laws of the Bible were ultimately about loving God and people, because they were an outpouring of the heart of God, who is in himself the very definition of perfect love.

I don’t discard the importance of essential doctrines. I am grateful that God has provided foundational truths that enable us to know who Jesus is and to be able to rest our faith in him alone as sovereign savior and king. But the newfound focus on love is keeping me from returning to the days of lording assumed theological precision over others. The growing focus of life for me is spelled out eloquently by Paul in a section from the famous ‘love chapter,’ 1 Corinthians 13:

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

The next time I spot a “Love God and People” bumper sticker I will smile warmly and give the driver a big thumbs up.

 

A telephoto lens gives a magnified view of the setting sun north of Florence, Oregon

A telephoto lens gives a magnified view of the setting sun north of Florence, Oregon


%d bloggers like this: