Last week. It took me a few tries to get this one down.
The temperature this morning is 40ᵒ cooler than just yesterday. I guess fall is here, now. I am standing outside the barn looking at Pleiades in the morning sky. The Seven Sisters, though I don’t know them by name. The time changes in a few days. The darkness will come more quickly on the other end of the day by the time I get home. I love this time of year.
So, I look up into the vastness overhead and instead of thinking, “nice”, occasionally, I think about things that are beyond my grasp. I’m not a deep thinker. Sometimes I think about how they get the cream inside a Twinkie. Or, sticky notes. That glue is amazing. But today I am in awe.
Pleiades reminds me of the expanse of something infinitely more important than the one small life that I will live in my short time on this earth. It causes a deep sense of wonder in a man to acknowledge his own smallness. To think of things that have existed for millions of years when his own life lasts for no more than a handful of decades.
It makes me chuckle a little bit to think that Job looked up at the same stars that I see. The Creator put things in perspective when he asked him:
“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?
Can you loosen Orion’s belt?”
Nope. Me neither. What other possible answer could there be?
Nothing in the big picture of history will ever record that I was here. A few photographs. A handful of people. A tombstone. And life will move on. There is nothing big about anything that I will ever touch or do. Nothing worth writing about in anything that has ever happened or will ever happen to me.
Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the things that have not happened to me. Things that happen to someone, somewhere, every day in a part of the world that is not mine. The things that are life altering and horrific and unexplainable. Tragedies that reshape everything you know and that tear at the core of all you hold on to.
I have a good friend who works with a funeral home in Florida. Sometimes when I have a little windshield time I will call him to check in. He delivered a body to the local airport the other day. His is a job that keeps a man grounded in the small and transitory nature of life. He is aware of that window between this life and the next more than most.
His passenger was an 18 year old college student from Michigan who was headed home to be buried. He described him as fair skinned and with beautiful curly hair. Innocence made flesh. A kid with his whole like in front of him but whose life was now gone. A car wreck. A terrible phone call to parents who sent their boy far away to school and who received him back in utter sadness.
I am grateful beyond measure that I have not received such a phone call. But in the depth of my smallness, I am aware that the phone could ring. In the blink of an eye everything can change. Job lost everything and knew he could not change that anymore than he could loosen Orion’s belt.
Small, however, is not the same as invaluable. Though not worthy of the history books, most everything in my life has value to me. Significance is not defined by volume or quantity or recognition by others. It’s enough to know that life matters. To know that what I do today is important, even if it’s only in some small way.
My Dad would often say, “I haven’t done anything with my life but breath up a bunch of air.” I never knew exactly what he meant. He and I never did go deeper than the unassuming nature of that statement. Did he live with regrets? Was he trying to inspire me to do something greater with my life? I don’t think he had an unhealthy view of himself at all. I just think he was completely aware of how small we all are in this brief journey of ours.
To me, his life was huge. He spent his entire working life at Southern States Foundry. For 48 years he got up early, sat a lunch box and thermos on the seat beside him, and went to work. No small accomplishment. He was a friend to his neighbors. He taught Sunday School. He was a farmer at heart. He visited a friend dying of cancer. He chaired committees. He got me out of trouble. He loved his wife. He never lost interest in his kids and grandkids. He gave freely when there was need. And it all happened in a very small window of time and within the very small sphere of the people he knew.
Sometimes the biggest thing you can do is just to be faithful to all the little things around you.
If I can be small like that, then I will have lived. So, I sit on the floor and play cars with my grandson. I call my kids from time to time just to say not much of anything. I sit with my wife on a quiet Saturday morning and drink coffee. I play music with my friends. I take in all the small things that I can so that life does not get away any sooner than I know it will.
Pleiades stares back at me. The Seven Sisters can barely make me out from up there. I am but a hair on the head of a microscopic critter that lives on a piece of dust attached to the underbelly of a gnat. I made that up. But I’m trying to think small. The kicker here is that the One who put Pleiades in place knows my name. And if that’s my small place on this earth, I’ll take it.