Why is it that 10 inches of new powder on the mountain delights and 10 inches piled high on my driveway derides? Same lovely white sparkle. Same fluffy consistency. Same complete coverage of everything in sight. The difference: perspective. One, I am meant to go out and play in. The other, I must plow through so I can get about my business.
This hits me like a 2×4, having just returned home from a brief skiing vacation in Utah. There, we stayed at the home of some friends at a virtual ski lodge nestled in hills near Park City. Sitting at the breakfast table my view of the mountains through the three story great room window was magnificent. Peak after peak of white, punctuated with evergreens, framed against an azure sky. Nothing compares, yet we haven’t even headed up the mountain.
I am completely dwarfed sitting there. In awe of the mountains and sky, yes, but also in this lodge of a home. Perhaps because mountain majesty rains in on all sides, the homes are gigantic, the expanse of windows taking advantage of every opportunity to show it off. This means the inside is beyond spacious. And so it must be filled to its proportions: furniture is large and plentiful, wall decoration gratuitous, chandeliers and lighting extensive, walkways and hallways and stairwells built to match. Even the kitchen decor has extra. Extra high cabinets, extra counter space, an extra dishwasher, automatic everything. Even the dishware seems pageantry, not a small bowl or a saucer in the lot. Everything is supersized.
And sitting in its midst I feel very, very small. Majesty does this to you. It right-sizes you. But this home, this lodge draws a caution from me. When we live large, we furnish large, appoint large, accessorize large. Because it fits. And living in that space, what’s large seems just right. Because in proportion to all that’s around it, it is. Try to take a picture to demonstrate the largess and you can’t; everything is in proportion. It doesn’t look large at all.
And isn’t that the nature of the “relative.” Proportion is established by comparison. Oh, it’s not that big compared to his house. It’s not that expensive compared to her dress. It’s not that extravagant compared to their vacation. Humans compare. And we will always fall short. But we keep up so we carry on.
Strangely and very lamentably, the view from the breakfast table started to lose its luster by the 3rd day. Still gorgeous, it was no longer breathtaking like it was on the first. I had gotten “used” to it. I was more animated by changes to its look: sunrise glow and sunset amber, a helium balloon taking off, incoming clouds that brought that powder. Much as I had become accustomed to the accommodations: where the light switches were, which bowls to use and how to work the coffee maker.
Grandeur may grab us but life is what drives us, whether to swoosh through the powder or shovel it in high drifts. Many things out there will right-size us, thank God. But because we do tend to get carried away and not even know it, I am so grateful to have the One thing at the center which doesn’t change in size or shape or price or composition. It is so important for our sense of comparison to have something against which all can be measured fairly and accurately and honestly.
One thing that didn’t diminish in that lovely Park City setting was the dark morning sky; pitch, sprinkled with twinkle and glow. The new moon leaning away shyly from the bold glow of a planet, perhaps Jupiter or Venus? Each of the mornings I tiptoed down the wide staircase while all others were asleep and peered out the back picture window. The stars smiled back in greeting with a perfect “W” – the constellation Cassiopeia. I supposed it was for W-endy.
That God, having some fun. Just dashed off a little note for me on the stationery of the morning sky. “Dear child, before you were born I put the lights in the sky. They are mine as you are mine.” Such a small gesture for a God so large, yet so tender, loving and intimate.
Perhaps, had I wandered outside under those stars I would have heard Him chuckle and say, “If she loves this, wait till she sees the room I have prepared for her.”
Why is it that when I look at nature – in its perfect synchrony, perfect rhythm, perfect spacing, incomprehensible power, miraculous gentility – I am startled into silence and awe and moved to tears?
Captain Dave Anderson and his wife, obviously at great personal risk, witnessed and photographed these astounding moments. I know you will enjoy this.
I watched the megapod of dolphins – a stampede they called it. Each in his space and his rhythm, undulating and diving, extending, pulling and gliding. None looking to see where the other is, who is ahead, who is behind, just a whisper and a whoosh. And I am back in the water, feeling the two-footed downward thrust called the “dolphin kick” that energizes and propels the body up over the waves. Arms flung wide to grab and pull. How awkward compared to these gorgeous, sleek animals, so powerful and streamlined and perfectly suited for this. Still, I feel it, in my muscles and bones because in the small-ness of me, I have swum just that way. I am in rhythm with them, one of the stampede, tearing out to sea. Free.
And then the whales, like torpedoes, jet across the surface. Great tails flip casual propulsion. Oh, but then this tender moment of three humpback whales: mom, calf and escort. The newborn whale being hefted to the surface to breathe and to play there, perhaps for the first time. Such huge, ungainly creatures, hovering, treading water as it were, Mom lifts and balances the baby at the surface. No hands or arms to hold with, no voice to give instructions, no role modeling to demonstrate. Simply holding him up, trusting him to do what nature designed him to do. To blow out through the spout, to discover his buoyancy and calibrate his ballast.
He is awkward and tentative at first, but his capability emerges and with it his playfulness. How like all children this is. He stays and plays, rolls and swims, trying out his new freedom with his new skills. And mother plays along. Mother and child, no script, no demands.
I wonder briefly about this mother whale. Is she anxious her calf won’t learn to swim, won’t take a breath, won’t coordinate the tail flip, the body roll, the leap and dive? No. She simply waits and supports.
Perhaps human kind is the only kind who is anxious about its young. Who swims out from under to show them. Who comes out of silence to tell them. Who does for them rather than waiting for them to do for themselves.
Nature is patient and kind. Not boastful or arrogant or rude. Not self-serving. It bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Now I know why I am startled into silence and awe and moved to tears. Perfect love is there. It swam right up to the whale-watching boat. We know it in our muscles and bones and to our very core. Even the small-ness of me recognizes the rhythm of true love. Its nature is to be known and to draw out our response.
Silence. Awe. Tears. Wonder. Trust.
Run, shoot, pass, dribble, score. Repeat and repeat, calling on the same muscles to do all the work. Do the same the next day, next practice, next game. It seems a reasonable plan for training and improvement. Just keep doing it until we get it right, right?
Well, no. Because each movement is not just the responsibility of one muscle. Oh, there is one muscle in charge; we call that the prime mover. That’s the muscle the gets strengthened when we do it over and over. But there are other team members here. There are the agonists, the helping muscles: smaller role but their additive effect is essential. Then there is the antagonist, the opposing muscle: whose job it is to slow or stop the motion. Finally, there are the stabilizers: the muscles that keep the movement aligned.
So, when we repeat and repeat, the strong get stronger but the weak get weaker. They become less and less able to play their role and balance the movement. This does not stem from an internal ranking system or superiority of performance. They are designed this way with different roles, different contributions, some larger, some smaller, some one direction, some another. There’s a division of labor, by design. We get into trouble when we favor one over the other. Neglect the weak and the strong suffer.
Amazing how even our bodies are designed for community. Favoritism is discouraged. Honoring each for its contribution based on its giftedness is wise. And the weakest and smallest need special attention and special protection. Neglecting these, letting the prime mover rule the roost and demand all the attention disrupts the balance. It’s a recipe for injury for the body.
When small roles are considered unimportant and small contributors considered insignificant, we deny our design. We fall into patterns of disparity, the strong feeling superior, the weak feeling dismissed. Closing this gap is essential for health. Not to bring each muscle into equal strength – that would be disaster for movement. Not to bring each muscle into equal leadership – that would freeze us in our tracks. Just to offer each its due. To train each up into its full potential and to activate it in the way that exerts just the right force at just-right speed in just-right direction with just-right balance, without deviating from the appointed pattern.
Only community can accomplish this. Honored community which recognizes the contribution of each in its proper proportion, according to its own design. We deny this at our own peril.
How cool of God to offer us this lesson in our bodies so we can live it out in His.