All those times we looked up at the sky
Looking out so far, it felt like we could fly
Grace Potter — "Stars"
I was out walking my dog last night and it was so beautiful and clear out that the night sky was just filled with stars. More stars than are usually visible were shining all around and that never fails to make me pause and drink it in. It reminded me of when i used to run back in college. I would take off from in front of my dorm and head through the downtown of the small rural town which housed my school. This is a really small town and it wasn't long at all before I was out of the developed area and well off the beaten path.
As I ran along those back roads and away from the lights of town, I would always marvel at the amazing sight that He revealed each night. So many stars came out of hiding and showed themselves. Every night I was awestruck both by the stunning beauty and the sheer enormity of it. The full magnitude of God's creation was right there, laid out before me. And I was all alone with Him. There was only me and my rhythmic footsteps and the stars and God. And some occasional cows.
It was on those nights that the opening words of Psalm 19 became real to me. "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge." It was on those nights that I felt so overcome that I literally couldn't help but worship the One who created it all.
But it was also on those nights that some other verses became real to me. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4) When faced with all of creation spread out and staring down on me, I was overwhelmed by it. There I was, an insignificant dust speck on a dust speck, floating through space and the Lord of all creation, the maker of Heaven and Earth, actually cared about me. Not only cared, but cared enough to die for me knowing that I could turn my back and walk away at any time. The more I thought about it, the more I was blown away by it. I've never known a more humbling experience.
Little did I know that, while I didn't totally turn away, I would relegate Him someday to little more than an afterthought. Not in so many words but I ended up giving Him a lot of lip service and not really living out my faith in practice. In some ways I think that's even worse.
And now that I'm in a different place in life, and especially in my relationship with God, I am even more dumbfounded by it. That He would willingly lay down His life for people whom He knew would laugh at Him and virtually spit in His face — well, there is no greater love. How then can I do anything but share that love with others? "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34) It can't be any clearer. The people I like, I also have to love. The people I don't particularly like, I have to love. The people who may actively hate me, I have to love. The people who don't believe in the God I serve, or worse, want to wipe the very belief system that compels me to love them off the map completely. I have to love them too. I don't have to condone or even tolerate their actions. I don't have to approve of parts of their lifestyle that I think are toxic or destructive. But I do have to love them. Every one of them. To treat them with dignity and respect whether or not it's reciprocated. In the very face of contempt or apathy or pity, I have to love them.
I love the quote from Saint Augustine that says, "God loves each of us as if there were only one of us." I don't think that we, as faulty humans are capable of that but I do think we're called to it. Just as He calls us to be perfect (Matthew 5:48) knowing that it's impossible for us to achieve. But we need a target that we can't reach to make it clear that our relationship can always go deeper.
So my wish — my prayer — is that I can begin to love others as if they are the only one to love. After all, "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (Galations 5:6)