For the Dual Citizens Among Us: On the Necessity of Finding Ourselves Small

Are we upset by all of the snow that fell? Untold numbers of snowflakes, each snowflake composed of untold numbers of water molecules, each molecule which may have constituted untold numbers of different snowflakes in lifetimes past, some atoms of which may have been in the chlorophyll of a leaf of a tree in the Garden of Eden, or in a corpuscle of the blood that was yielded onto a tree on Calvary? Have we looked at with wonder, or licked with delight, one of this weekend’s snowflakes, and breathed proper thanks to the living God, who stored them up for this moment in his story, and who released them to reveal more of his glory? I invite you this day to become small with me once again–a child, comforted and content, in the arms of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who not only knows each snowflake in all of its iterations, and controls each with sovereign precision, but all the more closely holds his beloved, blood-bought children.

These thoughts were, sadly, not high on my mind over the weekend past, but the time-out provided by corporate worship on the Lord’s Day started the process of re-arranging my mental furniture; the process was aided this morning by a friend having shared a recent article by Trevin Wax at The Gospel Coalition: You’re Unhappy Because You’re Too Big and Bored.

Joy suffers whenever we are too big and God is too small.

The fuel of joy is gratitude, and the fuel of gratitude is wonder. But wonder gets stifled by entitlement, and gratitude disappears when wonder dies.

One way for us to recapture a sense of the glory of God is through seeing the grandeur of His handiwork. This is one way we shrink ourselves and magnify God – through childlike faith, we are to become like children, fully dependent on God our Father and enthralled once again at the world He has given us.

Our two-year-old son shouts in delight at the most ordinary things. “Christmas lights!” he chirps from the backseat as we pass the same house for the hundredth time. “A truck!” he yells, running to the window to wave at the garbage collector. “Salsa!” he cries with joy when we take our seats at Chili’s and a basket of chips is placed before his eyes.

N. D. Wilson says we ought to thank God every day for life:

As the earth screams through space, balanced exactly on the edge of everyone burning alive and everyone freezing solid, as we shriek through deadly obstacle courses of meteor showers and find them picturesque, as the nearest fiery star vomits eruptions hundreds of times bigger that our wee planet (giving chipper local weathermen northern lights to chatter about), as a giant reflective rock glides around us slopping the seas (and never falls down), and as we ride in our machines, darting past fools and drunks and texting teenagers, how many times do we thank God?

This takes work. It takes discipline. But why? Why is gratitude hard? Why do we lose our sense of delight in the ordinary?

We marvel as children when we encounter the world anew, realizing that nothing has to be this way. We cannot be truly grateful for fleeting moments of happiness if we believe we deserve each and every one of them. We must see ourselves as graced before we can be grateful.

This interplay of gratitude and wonder, and wonder and happiness can only happen when the world becomes bigger and we become smaller. As long as we see ourselves at the center of this vast and ever-expanding universe, and as long as we think of ourselves as extraordinary and everything around us as ordinary or – God forbid – boring, then we will never discover happiness.

It is only when God is at the center of our existence, when He is big and we are small, when we see ourselves as ordinary people in a world of extraordinary marvels – only then do we discover the joy of gratitude.

And of course, the glories of the New Creation surpass even those of the Old!

“But this is a political action site, Cinco! What does this have to do with Iowa, or the General?”

Actually … everything. Because in our various callings in the city of Man, we never cease being images of the blessed God, and his covenant with us through his beloved Son binds us to be conformed to his image through the power of the Holy Spirit. Which means that every motivation, thought, word, and deed of ours from now until November is going to either heighten our own glory–or his. And he is most glorified when we are most delighted in him, which simply cannot happen if we are large and he is small.

“But we are about to be eaten alive by fools on both sides! Are we just to lay down in the dust?”

Well yes, alas, it may come to pass that a nation of fools will be given a choice of fools–by the Sovereign hand of God. But need we become fools in the process, dishonoring not only ourselves, but our Savior’s name as well? May it not come to that! Yahweh’s attribution of “worm” to the men of Israel was not made in disgust, but as a tender reminder calling them to find themselves in the only place of safety:

Fear not, you worm Jacob,
you men of Israel!
I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord;
your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
(Is. 41:14)

In a sermon series through the book of Isaiah, one of our pastors noted that in the early chapters of the 40s. the Lord’s strengthening admonition, “Fear not!”, was given 18 times as Judah was about to be snatched out of the Old Kingdom into the Babylonian captivity. We count those blessed, do we not, who were by faith in the coming Branch of David of the remnant loved by God, and faithful to him, though it cost many their lives? How much less then shall we, who have seen how God marvelously wrought salvation for us through that Branch, have reason to fear?

Let’s do all we can, then, in the various callings God has given us, yet staying small–comforted, secure, confident, grateful, and joyful in that smallness–so that God’s greatness will be displayed as he sees fit.