Thursday, February 5, 2009

Big, Small World

The world is a huge place. Sometimes I think we forget that. Often we prefer to recognize those moments in life when the world seems small and manageable. You know, like when strange coincidences bring together the most random of things. Like meeting a complete stranger on the other side of the world and coming to find out you share a common friendship. No way! It seems crazy. It’s those times that lead you to say something to the other person like, “Small world, huh?” And it is small in those moments. That's the power of coincidence.

But in other moments, the world is huge—it can catch you off guard and morph to a size beyond the ability to wrap your mind around. I’m then left trying to figure out why the world keeps changing sizes…or maybe it’s more accurate to say why my mind keeps thinking it’s changing sizes. Because it’s not really. I guess it comes down to your perspective.

Okay, this is when I start to make less and less sense in my attempt to make sense. Join me...

Perspective: your perspective has something to do with how big or small the world appears to be. What influences and changes your perspective then? Moments do; any moment can really. Different moments bring different experiences that challenge and shape the way you view and understand the world. Some moments are more momentous than others to be sure, but each moment carries with it power to influence the way you think. One moment the world seems small; the next it seems huge. And when the moments of your life keep changing drastically in opposite directions, you jump back and forth from the two extremes until you reach the point of mental exhaustion. Maybe individual moments are more significant than we often think given their power to change our perspective on the world.

This is the best way I know to describe my most recent experience. I found myself doing a lot of jumping around the past two weeks while spending time in Turkey observing and interacting with a completely different culture than the one I’m use to. There were a lot of moments that were thrown my way that I was forced to process rather rapidly. My mind went to work.

Everything seemed so different about these people. Obviously, they talked differently. Turns out they spoke in another language. This makes communication challenging I’ve come to find out. The food they ate was different too. And they looked different, they smelled…different, and they interacted with each other different. They were just different altogether. And at the heart of it all was this mysterious religion, mostly foreign to me, that almost all of them followed and claimed to some extent. Every time I would hear one of their calls to prayer, it would send an eerie chill down my spine. It was overwhelming; my mind couldn't take it.

I was bumping shoulders with millions of people who were completely lost in a very dark place. Their eternal destination wasn't looking so hot. Well, you know what I mean. And they really didn’t seem too bothered by it as I observed them. They simply lived their lives, walking the streets, riding the buses, playing in the park, sipping their teas, content in their hopelessness and ignorance. What was I to do about it? I’ve never seen so many lost faces that know nothing of the Gospel. I also wondered if I assumed too much about the people I would typically see back home. They seem pretty content as well. At least in Turkey, it was easier to know who was lost--all of them. The task was too big for me; overwhelming. What was more, this was only one city of hundreds like it around the world.

In these moments, the world seemed so huge.

I continued watch and study these people intently, trying to figure out their way of life. What were their motivations? How big of a role did their religion really play? What made them laugh? What made them angry? Wait, they have ipods? What music did they listen to? And movie theaters? They watch movies? I guess they do. These people were different for sure, but they were also strangely similar. They were human. They felt joy and pain. They had the same basic needs as I did. They enjoyed a good meal. They sought out genuine companionship with each other. And ultimately, they too longed for purpose, significance, acceptance, love, and a God to know intimately and be infinitely loved by.

This is where my mind began to be at ease: the God that I love and serve in Tennessee is just as much God in central Asia, or any other part of the world for that matter. His love is just as strong; His word just as true. He is a sovereign God who loves the whole world and everyt living, breathing person in it. Yeah, this is another overwhelming thought that is too big for me, but it’s one that brings comfort and hope to my many unanswered questions, and it helps me make sense of my moments. I think in a way, life simply comes down to allowing God to be the center of all your moments so that we come to see the world as He does.

God holds everything together when all seems lost and hopeless and too big. God is bigger. He puts definition to huge. His love endures and His purposes prevail. In relation to Him, we all—and by all I mean every human being on the planet—are pretty similar: we’re not big. Despite our cultures and the differences they bring, we all need Him. He created all things and rules over His creation with power and justice and goodness. Though it's all too big for me, God manages it all pretty well.

It’s in these moments, in light of God's grandness, that the world seems pretty small.

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