Finding Perspective

There's a special sort of grounding that happens in me when I get out in nature. When I am hiking up a trail, admiring a flower, soaking in wondrous sunshine, dipping my feet in the ocean, or gazing at the stars, I feel like one small part of a story much bigger than me. I sense the connection of the pieces of the ecosystem, and it brings a calming force to my hurried soul. 

In short, I find perspective.

perspective comes when we see our significance and insignificance at the same time.

In nature, both the significance at each tiny piece of a system and the insignificance of our small selves in the midst of grandeur become simultaneously clear. 

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"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" - Psalm 111:10

We often think of the word fear as synonymous with the word terror. Which makes verses like this feel prickly when we come across them in the Scriptures. Sure, God is powerful, but are we really supposed to be terrified of the Lord? Doesn't that contradict the passages about God's love and mercy and grace?

In Hebrew, the mowra' means fear and terror, but that is not the word used in Psalm 111:10. The word used here is yirah, which besides fear, can be translated as awe. 

Some scholars have made an interesting connection between yirah and ra'ah. Though they don't look very similar in their english characters, in Hebrew characters they are almost identical, with the first having the apostrophe like symbol for the y sound at the beginning of it. The largest and most obvious of the characters are the same. 

Ra'ah means to see or perceive. 

Before asking what it means to fear the Lord, perhaps we should ask what we see. When we look at this world, what do we see? When we look at the Scriptures, what do we see? 

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"Great are the works of the Lord;
    they are pondered by all who delight in them.
Glorious and majestic are his deeds,
    and his righteousness endures forever." - Psalm 111:2-3

"Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels shouted for joy?" - Job 38:4-7

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well. - Psalm 139:13-14

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" - Matthew 6:26-27

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Perhaps fear of the Lord is what happens when we look around and see things as they actually are: the wonder of an amazing creation and the Creator who crafted it, the smallness of my own problems in perspective, and yet the promise that the great God of this world cares about even me.


This post is part of my Psalms Journey series. 

#PsalmsJourney is a series reflecting on the Psalms one at a time, in order. Learn more about it on my Psalms Journey page. If you'd like to join me, put a link to your own post in the comments.


Listening to Rhythms

I am not naturally an early riser. I am disciplined enough to get up with the sound of my alarm when it's necessary, but not without at least one snooze. I relish the rare alarm-free morning, especially if the kids sleep a little later than usual.

When my husband and I went on vacation last week without the kids, one of the things I was looking forward to most was sleep. The ability to go to bed when I wanted and get up when I felt ready, and maybe even take a nap if the moment felt right.

Yet, the entire vacation, I never slept later than 7:00 am. In fact, most days I woke up by 5:30, though I usually didn't roll out of bed until after 6:00.

The first day when this happened, I got up, rather oblivious to what time it was. After all, clocks are optional so far away from work and school and responsibilities. My husband and I both got out of bed, and started making coffee and breakfast before he laughed and told me the time.

Why did we get up so early? Because of this.

good morning sun

Every morning, we awoke to a stunning sunrise, our own private view of Nicaraguan scenery painted in pinks and yellows. As the sun filled our eyes, the sounds of cicadas, birds, and monkeys filled our ears. The earth was waking up, and we arose right along with it. We couldn't avoid it, but neither did we want to. These were some of the most peaceful and lovely mornings I have ever experienced.

One reason this worked was because of when we went to bed. The sun would set by 6:00 pm, while we were eating dinner, and after that, there wasn't a whole lot to do. We would read some by the dim lights of the house, but being off the grid, on solar power, there wasn't a ton of light to come by. We would walk out to the deck to say goodnight to the star-filled sky, and head to bed.

goodnight stars

Usually, the lights were off and our heads were on our pillows by 9:00 pm. Sometimes even earlier. 

So, when the morning sun broke through the haze of our sleep, we were rested, and we were ready to greet it. We paid attention to when the world around us was sleeping and waking, and we followed suit.

It was a lovely and unforced cycle of days.

I think about how often I force my life. When I go to bed isn't based on how tired I am, but how long it takes to get that one last thing done before I sleep. (Or, let's be honest, that one last show watched.) When I wake up isn't based on how rested I feel, but trying to get up a bit before my kids to get a jump start on my day. Those habits aren't necessarily bad: it takes some discipline and sacrifice to achieve goals and get stuff done. But it's the rule, not the exception, that I sleep based on when I can or should, not based on what the rhythm of the earth or my body is telling me. 

We have a pattern of forcing life into calendars and schedules and shoulds. We have lost touch with the natural rhythms of life.

Too often, we live by pushing instead of by listening.

What would it be like to bring some counter-cultural patterns into our days? To sometimes let the sun shine brighter than our calendars and our bodies speak louder than our expectations? How might this help us live by listening more than pushing? How might this make room to hear even more, maybe even the voice of God in our midst?

I want to bring that little piece of vacation back to real life with me. How about you?