I remember my first trip to New York City. My wife and I went to the city in the summer of 2009 so I could speak at a non-profit leadership training.
It was a wonderful experience, walking around Central Park, visiting Wall Street, getting lost in Chinatown; it is a trip my wife and I will always remember.
About two days into the trip I noticed something: it was easy to tell the locals from the visitors. Yes, the tourists with their camera out was an easy giveaway, but just a noticeable was what the locals never seemed to do: look up.
The cityscape of New York City is breathtaking, and yet a majority of the people we passed on the street seemed to be unaffected by the larger city around them. It led me to ask the members of the training that evening, “When was the last time you looked up?” It was a rhetorical question, but one that I often think about. It is a reminder to me of not just New York City, but also my relationship with God.
The residents of the city became familiar with the city and eventually, the newness of the city wore off. For many of those in the group, familiarity led to apathy concerning the wonder of the city.
I think this same tendency is evident in one’s relationship with God. The biblical concept related to God’s greatness is called transcendence. It is the understanding that God is entirely separate from his creation. The Bible confirms this understanding with concepts and titles to describe God including Creator and Sovereign, and it is what the prophet Isaiah speaks of when he says,
“I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple”
Although God’s transcendence is affirmed throughout the Bible, we tend to become familiar with God and his working in our lives, and as a result, we stop looking up. When this happens, we run the risk of not recognizing God for who he is as the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists.
Pastor and author Paul David Tripp speaks to this indifference in his book, “Dangerous Calling,” when he describes losing one’s awe of God. He speaks to the danger by explaining, “What is the danger? It is that familiarity with the things of God will cause you to lose your awe. You’ve spent so much time in Scripture that its grand redemptive narrative, with its expansive wisdom, doesn’t excite you anymore.” (114-115)
Although there are many things that can remind us of a proper view of God, I have provided just two in the following.
First, it helps to see through a fresh-eyes perspective. This is, of course, difficult to do alone, so it requires us to connect with others. I am reminded of the power of a fresh-eyes perspective at the university where I work. I often have the opportunity to tour the campus with new or perspective students and it is a great reminder of the beauty of the campus. When it comes to seeing God through fresh eyes, we need each other to help wipe away the boredom that can become prevalent within our lives. We need each other to provide perspective on the greatness of God.
Second, we need to spend time with God in his word. We are told in Hebrews 4 that the Bible is, “is living and active,” and in Psalm 19 the Word of God is explained to be, “More to be desired…than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.” As we read of God revealing himself through his word to us, we cannot help but be reminded of the greatness of God and his preeminence over his creation.
It is through the help of others and the influence of the Bible within our lives that we can be reminded of the greatness of God. Let’s make a commitment today to put away the apathy that can become common within our lives and remember to look up!