Perspective and the Lost Art of Reflection

In 1968 the first manned mission to the moon took place, a venture that was a triumph for human ingenuity, cleverness, vision and skill—all attributes required for human progress in any area, and marks of humanity at its best. It was a truly great achievement. However as William Anders one of the crew looked back from the vast emptiness of space and viewed the shrinking blue planet that we call home he was moved to reflect and to quote from Genesis “And in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” There was Anders in the midst of the most exceptional technological success and achievement, yet forced to put it in perspective, and to acknowledge that it was as nothing compared to the creation of ‘the heavens and the earth’, indeed made to feel ‘small’.

I wonder how often we reflect on the enormity of creation and the smallness of us, so small despite our cleverness and technological achievements. How often do we ask with the writer of Psalm 8

“When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars
which you have set in place
what is man that you are mindful of him
the son of man that you care for him?”

Anders found himself forced to reflect on his earthly home, the blue planet hanging in space, and the smallness of us and the hugeness of God. The God who has nevertheless-

“Crowned (us) with glory and honour”

I was the poet W.H. Davies who once wrote

“What is this life so full of care,
if we have no time to stand and stare?”

If we are the sort of person who is always claiming to be ‘too busy’ we should take note of these words. How often do we make time to “stand and stare”, to reflect on the enormity of God and the smallness of us, and also the fact that the enormous God has put the ‘smallness’ of us here on this small blue planet in an eternity of time and space?

Many complain of their busy-ness, but how often do we take time in our frenetic ’busy-ness’ to stand and stare, to reflect and put our lives in perspective and ask the ‘big question’? Why are we here? How often, as we hurtle on our planet ark through space and time (for God has numbered our days) do we ask – what is our reason for being here, and what is the meaning of this small blip between eternity and eternity we call ’my life’?

It is in the prayerful reflective ‘asking of why’ that God will give the perspective to our lives we so often lose as we get sucked into the quicksand of our busy-ness, and regain the perspective God intends us to have. Willaim Anders was on a massively important mission, an endeavour huge by human standards, yet he was forced to put it in the context of God’s creation, and to realise how small is even the greatest of human enterprises.

The Psalmist looked at the night sky and was forced to realise how small he was. Taking time out to reflect on the God of creation and the big questions puts our limited, time-bound concerns, all our busy-ness, all the things we think are ’urgent’, in perspective and will show us what is actually important.

Taking time out to reflect and pray is a spiritual (and therefore emotional and physical) health discipline. So maybe this week we should take time out to reflect on our smallness, on this small blue planet in a back water of the universe, and to prayerfully ask ‘why are we here?’ and use this to put our endeavours in perspective.

If we feel we are being sucked into a quicksand of ‘busy-ness’, maybe it’s time to regain the ‘Lost Art of Reflection’, to “Be still and know that I am God”, (Psalm 46), to take time to “stand and stare”. To put things in the perspective of the God who “created the heavens and the earth’ yet who is indeed ‘mindful’ of us, and ‘cares’ for us.

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