I have always been fascinated and in love with the horizon, where the earth meets the sky. Whether sunrise or sunset, the tapestry of colors, shapes, and landscapes always stops me in my tracks, and I wonder out loud, “How Great Thou Art”. I love both the rising and the setting of the sun, but if I had to pick a favorite, it would have to be sunset. Although I am well practiced at getting up early in the morning, I am a night owl at heart.
Depending on your familiarity with my interests, you may or may not know that I love wrestling with information surrounding time and space, with temporal mysteries. Well, the horizon is a temporal mystery. For those of us located on this side of the earth, when the sun rises, it is heralding our future. The day is presenting itself and possibilities abound. Conversely, as the sun rises for us, it is setting for others, and these people have already experienced the day we are about to experience. Their past is our future, and yet we are all experiencing our own present at any given moment. Is your head spinning yet?
Another area that deals with time and space, and fascinates me so, is memory. The mind functions as a temporal mystery. I mean, my goodness, you can literally experience the past, present, and a possible future all in the same moment. I mean, wow! It is a delicate balancing act. One that requires acknowledgment, trust, wisdom, courage, and action.
Are these not the qualities we are searching for in every moment of every day during this pandemic? As I scan the news, the area I find hardest for people to grapple with is that of acknowledgment. It is not entirely our fault. Without a measured understanding of the virus or who has it, the medical and economic uncertainties we face make it hard to acknowledge the situation in a way forward that feels satisfying.
On the other end of the spectrum, the area I see most is courage. The courageous acts I see from those involved in the medical, delivery, and food/grocery professions fill me with an immeasurable amount of hope. The courage of teachers and students, as they’re either able to adapt to online instruction, or if they have had to prematurely say goodbye to each other, that courage is palpable. Even if there is a touch of sadness, it feels me with hope. The courage of our church, as we adapt to new worship or mission practices and seeing us continue to thrive under the current circumstances, it feels me with hope. We are together even when we are apart.
Like time, space, memory, the earth, the cosmos, sunrise, and sunset, this is all happening. It is happening separately, and yet, together, all at once. Is it all overwhelming? Of course, it is, and that is ok. It should be. Life is overwhelming.
It is overwhelming to grapple with memory, with one’s past. Memory is a lot like history. The better we understand it and create an equilibrium, the better positioned we are to experience our present and step into our future. To put this into an all too relevant perspective, take a note from the Spanish Flu of 1918. Cities that relaxed their social distancing guidelines too early, when the second wave was hitting, saw greater rates of mortality. What a privilege it is to learn from history, to create equilibrium from memory.
It is overwhelming to think that the strength of a city rests on the individual strengths of its communities, and each state rests on the individual strengths of its respective cities. That a strong collection of states builds a strong national community, and a strong national community will only be as strong as its global counterparts. This happens from the top down and from the bottom up, all at once. Its effectiveness depends not on shared opinions, but on intent and participation.
It is overwhelming to look at a sunrise or sunset and examine where the earth meets the sky, to think of our place in the cosmos. It is all overwhelming, and it is overwhelmingly lovely. God sure knows how to live up to the “Great” in “How Great Thou Art”.
There is a paradigm shift happening as the vast majority of people all over the world have the opportunity to stop and reattune themselves to the overwhelming nature of life. Our horizon is a temporal mystery, and I pray that we all might trust and ascertain wisdom, so that when the time for action presents itself, we will be ready. Amen.