Dearest Rachel –
Yes, yes, I know. That first word in the King James Version is nothing more than a archaic conjugation of the verb “to be.” Still, when you look at it – and you have a better view of it than I do at this point, don’t you? – it seems an appropriate description.
On the surface of it, the phrase looks like a simple acknowledgment of where God can be found. By those lights, though, it seems to suggest that He is not here on earth, but rather ‘up there’ somewhere. But given what we know of His omnipresence, nothing could be further from the truth.
The thing is, it’s all a matter of perspective. This little pebble that I call – and you used to call – home hangs suspended in that same heaven as much as any other planet, star or comet. So even as that phrase rolls off one’s tongue, one must bear in mind where exactly heaven is. We here on earth aren’t entirely separate from it, although we understandably perceive it as such – the land separate from the sky, and so forth.
So even as He is in heaven, or what we would traditionally think of as ‘heaven,’ He is also all around us here on earth. And of course, his Holy Spirit is within us – at least, within those of us who have come to Him, and who He thereby calls His children. All of which is why the preceding phrase, the one that starts everything when we come before Him and address Him, is “Our Father.”
But that’s another essay, for another time.
We as humans are aware of the three main dimensions in which we exist freely: length, width and depth; and how we can travel within those dimensions in any direction (although depth is somewhat restricted, as we can only jump so high, or dive so deep). We are also acquainted with the fourth dimension, that of time, and how we are locked into traveling within it in a single direction that we are forced to consider ‘forward.’
But I’m convinced that there’s at least one other dimension that we know of, it’s just that we simply don’t perceive it as a separate dimension. It’s the dimension of scale, and as with time, it’s one that we are locked in. Oh, we can crouch down on the ground, and watch the ants scurry about the pavement around their little hill (just like we do in our little circles that we call our lives). We can look at bacteria, and even molecules and atoms with a sufficiently powerful microscope. And in the other direction, we can look out into the heavens with a telescope, or visualize the earth itself – or, should we so choose, the little part of it that we occupy, or perhaps some part on it that we want to get to – on Google Earth. But we cannot change our own height and volume in and of ourselves, and by extension our perception of the world remains static.
However, God is able to run the gamut from infinitesimally small to infinitely large. It is He that keeps those tiny particles – the quarks, the leptons, the mesons, the bosons – from flying apart (and He knows which ones make up the other ones, which is more than I can say for myself). At the same time, He can cup His hand, and hold within it what we refer to as the entire observable universe – and beyond, since even we must acknowledge that there’s more to this universe than we can or ever will possibly perceive.
Even that phrase – the ‘observable universe’ – acknowledges that the universe was not made for us, or our benefit. We will never be able in our lifetime, or even our existence as humanity, to see everything in it. And yet the One who made it did so ‘for His own pleasure,’ as the Psalmist puts it. It is the ultimate expression of art for art’s sake, and yet we seem so determined to deny the Artist His due.
It’s amazing to think that we as humanity used to think of ourselves as the center of the universe; that everything revolved around us. We now know that we are in but a tiny backwater on the edge of our galaxy – to say nothing of the universe at large (assuming something of virtually infinite size can even be said to have a ‘center’). All of which is actually a good thing, because if we truly were in the center of it, we would find ourselves in the middle of a colossal black hole, either spaghettified or crushed out of existence. Even if we were in a place with just a little more ‘action,’ so to speak, we would find ourselves in the middle of a cosmic shooting gallery, with gamma rays and rogue planets and all sorts of random hazardous things threatening our existence. We are safer here, in this little insignificant spot that we have been placed in, and we should be grateful for it.
But in turn, we need to recognize that our place in the universe really is just that insignificant. All the things we might possess, all the power we might grasp at, it’s all so woefully small – and for such a small amount of time. Everything that is beautiful about our existence, everything that is worthy of attention – it will all disappear. Whether due to the simple decay caused by age, or whether it will last till the planet is absorbed into our expanding sun, everything we see, everything we can sense, will all be brought to nothing. And what of those battles we as humanity have had to control one or another tiny crumb on this pygmy planet? Worthless.
I suppose I sound very much like the Preacher of Ecclesiastes, and how everything is mere vanity but, as he himself would say, there is nothing new under the sun, now, is there?
All we can do is to appreciate the transient beauty that our Father has created, and surrounds and envelops, along with us. because whether we recognize it or not, it truly is art in heaven. And each of us serve as yet another stroke of His brush on that cosmic canvas, in every dimension He has placed us in.