Experience the Vastness of God

By Julie Rhodes

Last night, I had a dream that woke me up afraid. I was not running for my life or falling off a cliff. It was simply an experience of vastness

I was suspended in the absolute middle of the night-bound ocean, under the surging water, in the dead center between the bottom of the ocean floor and the black surface. The whole ocean, all the Pacific, it seemed, was lit from within like a swimming pool at night — a world of hazy-yellow fog. There were no fish, no whales, no creatures or plants or coral or geological formations. It was like being a floating particle of dirt in one of those tanks at Sea World that contains the enormous orca whales. And because I was that particle of dirt, I wasn’t fearful of being eaten or even of drowning; I was much too insignificant for such dramatic things. I was nothing but a self-aware blip, something just big enough to perceive its utter tininess.

Somehow, even though I was miles and miles from the surface of the water, I was able to swim to the top. When my vision broke the surface, things were worse than before. All was waves and blackness, everything vanishing into an infinity of distance.  

I woke up praying.  

My dream has made me cozier today. I curl up tightly on my couch. I breathe in the walls of my house; they feel safe. Even the trees in my yard, which are tall, have boundaries I can see, and so I enjoy them for the way they reach into the sky…and then end.

“You hem me in, behind and before,” the psalmist sings (Psalm 139:5). We don’t realize how hemmed in we are most of the time. Even our bodies hem us in. Floating in that vast expanse of water, I couldn’t see my arms or legs or feel my hair undulating around my cold neck. I had no shape. Today, I relish my fingers and toes; I bask in my skin and how I can reach out and put a flat palm to the painted brick wall of my sunroom.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (vs. 13), the singer continues. Here is Vast God, with impossibly delicate instruments, knitting together the microscopic soul in an infinitesimal body. He hems me in physically, but also mentally and spiritually. My limits are internal, too. I have blessed, blessed limits of comprehension and perception and understanding.

But not God:

Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me

and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you;

the night will shine like the day,

for darkness is as light to you. 

This is a God who is not swamped by darkness or distance or time. He IS the darkness, is the dawn, is the depths, and the heights, and he graciously sets my parameters.  

Of course, most of the time I’m too busy to live blessedly in this containment. I see other people, but I don’t see them as creatures knit together and hemmed in by Vast God. We all struggle to connect sometimes, and maybe this is why. I may not have much of anything in common with someone else, but we absolutely share this: a shared tininess in the presence of, well, most everything else. And if I accept my size, I can remain eye-level with you, with her, with him, with them, instead of always trying to see over and outside the walls God has erected.

He hems me in, behind and before. I turn towards you and towards others, all of us bound together in this common enclosure.

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