To this day I can’t listen to the Beatles without thinking of Italy. What better soundtrack to a newly-weds first holiday abroad…. well I beg to differ and I’m not the biggest Beatles fan, but even so, whenever I hear the words: Love love me do. You know I love you, I’m straight back to those views as we drove down the Amalfi Coast to stay with friends. Come on Baby Drive my car flings me ironically into the hair-raising memory of driving in Naples (what were we thinking?!), and When I saw her standing there brings back the most stunning sights of the Calabrian coastline having driven up 524 metres of winding mountainside roads to the hillside town of Aieta.
As The Beatles blasted out of our 1litre hired, distinctly non air conditioned car in the 35 degree heat, gradually our singing became stifled as the cliff edge drops and mountainside turns grew increasingly more dramatic. Preoccupied with just trying to stay alive on the Italian roads, our singing was gradually silenced!
Needless to say I have a rather Love-Hate relationship with The Beatles…….Music really does evoke powerful emotions and memories.
The view at the top was more than worth it! But Aieta and its views aren’t just a memory of my newly-wed days. Standing at the top of the mountain I remember really feeling my size, feeling my place in the world and it felt small! The expanse and immensity of the views in front of me literally expanding my horizon and stretching my perspective. The space I occupied in the world, even the town I called home, is just one part of this much bigger world.
As we gaze on that which we cannot contain with a look, or capture with a photograph, or even describe in a blog post, as our perspective of the world in which we live is stretched and expanded, we cannot help but realise there are times in life we are powerfully put in our place, when we realise we aren’t the centre of the universe. Standing on top of the mountain can make us feel less like Kings and more like creatures. Those panoramic views, hilltop vistas and a sense of the vastness of the world cannot help but stir up for us both wonder and worship.
As we take in creation, we are taken up in praise and adoration of our Creator.
It doesn’t take a mountain top view to do this. God uses the world he has created to reveal to us His loving creating, sustaining hand all the time. Every time we are confronted with a perspective that challenges us, with a sight that astonishes us and we can’t being to describe, those moments we feel God forcing our eyes open, clarifying our sight, sharing with us the immensity of the world, there is no song we want to sing better than that of praise.
A Beatles album may take me back to the moment of driving to Aieta, but it offers no words for my response to the views God gave me of his world from that hillside point. The only words, the only song, the only response to such a vision of creation is that of praise to the Creator.
Creation is one of God’s means of grace he uses to lift us out of ourselves. But as we gaze upon creation, as we very soon realize our own createdness, consider our place in the world, there can be pain in the placing. When we praise God alone as Creator, we have no choice but to declare at the same time that we are distinctly created. Praise can be painful as it wrenches our hearts’ focus away from ourselves, as we powerfully proclaim God alone is King, Creator and Lord of the world. There is pain in praise, but there is so much power.
Breaking, displacing, reorienting, shifting the rule of of pride and self despair in our hearts.
Consider Job- he is pretty drastically confronted with the vastness of the world. When he questions God’s rule over creation, when he questions God’s methods and wonders whether they are truly just, when he fires questions at his Creator, he receives an overload of questions back that put him in his place distinctly as he who is created.
The creator- creature distinction is re-established as God calls Job to wonder and behold the vastness of creation, questioning Job’s ability, creativity, goodness, power and purposes. As Job’s mind is filled with a vision of the world, and more so, of his Creator God who brings into being, sustains and upholds that world, he is confronted with the reality of how things are. His whole perspective is redeemed, renewed and transformed as he is lovingly put in his place by his Heavenly Father, by his Creator, Redeemer and Lord.
For Job, to realize his place in the world brings him pain, but of the type necessary for effective healing. There is true healing in the humbling, and that can only lead to praise adoration and worship of the Creator, pouring from the lips of the Created.
It may be that the mountain tracks, the winding cliff edge paths you’re facing this week feel like they’re going to choke all hope, stifle all ability to sing. But don’t resist that painful place you realise you’re in. Admit and declare that you are not Creator. Cry out in the pain of feeling your created state, your fragile, seeming insignificance and lift your voice in praise to God declaring that He alone is Creator.
Our choked singing, our lone voices as we join in church online at home may seem weak but they are lifted to our heavenly Father, our Creator and Sustainer who receives them.
They may seem insignificant and pitiful at times, but when we use our voices for praise instead of self pity or pride, we are humbling our hearts and allowing God to lift us far higher than we could possibly do ourselves.
Our world in this place can feel painfully small. But as God lifts our gaze to the perspective before us, and assures that while He is Lord, King, Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer of all that we will see this day, he lifts our hearts to the significance of His place for us in His world. Our place that is planned, purposed, given and specifically created. His place for you, for me, in this world is part of a vision we can never begin to capture, a vision that is eternal, that spans not just the earth we inhabit, but the heavens too. The world is the Lord’s and so are we.