Moments Like This One

Dear Will:

This world is a big place. Billions and billions of us dot the planet. Where I live, it’s mostly an uninterrupted string of homes and buildings with millions of people inside, lining the hundreds of miles from LA to San Diego. If I lived in a more densely populated city, those buildings would be jammed wall-to-wall and ceiling-to-floor, with too many people crammed into too little space for miles and miles and miles.

As I stare blankly at the math of it all—7.23 billion people in the world, with roughly 189,000 added to the planet today alone—it’s pretty much incomprehensible. I have trouble just understanding the number of folks on the 405 freeway at rush hour. How can I begin to process the thought of 1,087 people per square kilometer in Bangladesh?

In the face of those numbers, it’s easy to convince myself that I’m pretty much nothing—that in the vast scheme of things I am not much more than a microscopic speck in the middle of the vast Sahara. The Psalmist inquired: “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4)—to which I feel to add: “Yeah. Exactly.”

One time, Moses saw all of this and more within a vision—“And it came to pass that Moses looked, and beheld the world upon which he was created; and Moses beheld the world and the ends thereof, and all the children of men which are, and which were created”—after which he (reasonably) exclaimed: “Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing” (Moses 1:8–10).

And yet there are moments when, almost unawares, I begin to feel like the entire universe is condensing down as if seen through a magnificent zoom lens. Moments when I feel as if the world is little more than the space within the reach of my outstretched arm. Moments like this one—sitting in this chair, at this desk, here in this empty room— when something I’ve just read triggers something I now feel, and I know all over again that God not only knows me but He is aware of my immediate, pressing needs. Moments when I know it as clearly as I know that the sun is hitting my face when I walk outside on a warm spring morning.

I cannot possibly do the math. And yet I know.


What About Jesus?

Dear Will:

Last Sunday was Fathers’ Day. My kids made me this breakfast that was like a cross between scrambled eggs and French toast—a concoction called “Egg-ceptional Breakfast Bake” that Bryn, my nine-year-old, found in a cookbook entitled New Junior Cookbook. I also got treated to a talent show that included a piano improvisation by Seth (who’s five) and a dance concert involving all three kids, only one of whom is a dancer. And it showed.

It was all good fun. Coming into the day, I told my kids that all I really wanted was some one-on-one time with each of them to talk to them about their faith. Specifically, I told them I wanted them to share with me what it is they believe in.

Seth went first. He said: “I believe in God. I believe that Dinosaurs once ruled the earth. And I believe that human beings lived during the Ice Age.”

OK. Then I asked him, “What about Jesus? What do you think about Jesus?”

“Good,” he said. And that was that.

Jesus himself once asked his disciples (essentially) the same question I had asked Seth. The ensuing exchange was telling, even though it contained no apparent references to T rex or any of his cronies:

When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.  (Matt. 16:13-17)

That was a telling moment for Simon Peter. It was, as far as we can tell, his first recorded, verbal affirmation of his faith in Christ. And Jesus tells us that that faith was born of personal revelation, sent by the Father through the Holy Spirit.

It kind of makes you want to stop and consider the question yourself, doesn’t it? What about Jesus? If your answer falls anywhere between Seth’s and Simon’s, it suggests that you yourself have at one point or another been blessed with a moment of spiritual insight that is a rare gift indeed. John the Revelator said, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). You didn’t know you might be a prophet, did you?

I don’t know if I’ve ever shared with you before my own belief. Perhaps it has been implied in previous letters. But let me make it explicit here: I believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the only begotten son of God, my Savior and yours. His teachings guide my life, and his grace is sufficient, as the scripture says, to help me to receive eternal blessings in spite of my manifest shortcomings.

And I also believe that dinosaurs once ruled the earth.