One of the numerous things I love about my fiancé is that he can fly. And by “fly,” of course I mean he is a pilot (and flight instructor – anyone in upstate South Carolina want flight lessons? 😉 ). Speaking as someone who got her driver’s license at 23 and had never even seen an operational small plane up close, his flying skills were one of the first things that drew me in on our early dates.
Last weekend a good pilot friend of ours chose to leave his wedding not in a car, but in a getaway plane — Stephen and I were more than thrilled to help out by flying the plane home from a nearby airport! I just loved it. For my first experience I was allowed to sit in the front seat with the massive headset and pull on the yoke on takeoff (I did mention he’s a flight instructor, right? I was quite nervous to do even that much, but he made it seem effortless!). It was a surreal experience, and the scenery was utterly gorgeous.
We flew over the mountains and foothills of North Carolina, and I just could not stop staring. The greens of the trees and the blues of the lakes and the puffy whiteness of the clouds were breathtaking. I love my current home, but I think it takes that bird’s eye view to really appreciate the beautiful contrast and contours of the land.
This weekend I had a similar, yet opposite experience. While last week we were high above, taking in the entire forest and park at once, this weekend I was down on the ground, touching trees and clambering over rocks within the forest. And it had a beauty of its own.
I almost titled this post “4 Nerds and an Aussie,” because the five of us went to great lengths during our 7-hour hike to label rocks with movie references and trees with puns. Each new lookout we ooh’ed and ah’ed (and rested our weary legs), and grew convinced the next lookouts could not be any more b bbeautiful (spoiler, they were). One among us is a photographer, and he’d stop to take detail photos of interesting things we saw on the trail, or we would do our best to get a particular bit of colorful flower in our Instagram photos.
Flying high above was effortless (for me). On the ground we labored every step. From high above I could see the entire park all at once, and note where ridges created texture on the terrain and the clouds cast shadows on the trees and lakes. But on the ground I could appreciate those ridges in every muscle of my legs. I could wonder at the remainder of last year’s forest fire. I could see flowers and signage and the sparkly rocks which so amazed our Aussie friend.
While on the downhill stretch this weekend I got to thinking about how well these two experiences compare to the Christian life. As a servant of God I need both perspectives: I need to see my life as a whole — and even bigger, to see God’s plan of salvation and ultimate glory. God sovereignly leads us in every season of life, and looking backwards I see the mountaintops of growth and the valley lakes of desperation and discouragement. I see the times of trial as well as the times of joy, and overall I see His working to make me more and more like His Son, Jesus Christ.
But the daily life is oh so much more. Just like today I can feel that mountain aching in my muscles, the daily Christian life is a battle. We strive against the devil and our own sinful hearts every step of the way; we experience pain and trials and make difficult life decisions. But down on the battleground of Christianity we cannot deny the true beauty of God’s grace. He gives us people to love and be loved by. He gives us satisfaction in pleasing Him. He gives us art and technology and delicious food and so many things that we do not technically need but that ease our living and give us enjoyment.
I believe that God is sovereign over everything as a whole, but I also strongly believe He cares about the little things. Stephen and I love to recount the little things that “just happened” that led us to where we are today. A last-minute room assignment change led Stephen to his best friends and traveling to Morocco, a trip that has greatly influenced his passions for the future. A frustrated conversation about my previous job with my current boss set me on course for meeting Stephen in the first place. Being afraid of science courses at university led me (through a very long and complicated train of events) to becoming a child of God.
You can’t tell me God has no concern for the little things; that He created the world and then let it go; that He only intervenes for important events or super-special people. I don’t have all the why answers for the pain and suffering that exists in the world, but when I get too bogged down in the rocks and trees of daily life, I know that I can zoom out and see the forest of God’s plan for His glory.
Because that, my friends is the purpose of all life: to bring glory to the Creator who is sovereign. And to do that, sometimes we have to look at the forest and the trees.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
(1 Cor. 10:31)