God sees our lives in their totality

Published November 1, 2002

One of the aspects of my work to which I have become accustomed is travel by air.

When I was a bishop on the Prairies I traveled a great deal (in a diocese the size of Britain) but it was all by car. When I became primate I took to the air. And while I am accustomed to it, I never cease to marvel at it. When I spend seven hours flying across the Atlantic I think of my grandmother and four small children who spent more than two weeks one February a century ago on a ship, dodging icebergs. I have twice had the experience of driving beside the salt water of the Atlantic shore early in the morning and along the salt water of the Pacific before noon the same day. So, in spite of the increasing tiresomeness of some aspects of air travel (longer waits in airports, less legroom), I still marvel at what it provides. And I always try to get a seat by the window, even though a recent trip to Hong Kong produced nothing to see but clouds and the typhoon in which we landed. And what I see often gives me cause for thought, and for gratitude for more than simply the speed with which I get about. For example, I recently flew east across Saskatchewan following the Trans-Canada highway from Regina to the Manitoba border, a route I have driven more times than I can count, though not for 16 years. And I discovered that from the air I could distinguish every town and village, and remember their names, including a couple of tiny places where even the grain elevator has been pulled down. Even better, I could think of people in each town who were part of my life years ago, and that process was helped by the reality of seeing it all from above. Once, however, I had an opportunity for meditation that was almost theological in its impact (especially for me who is not a theologian). The pilot told those of us on the left side of plane that we were flying over the town of Nelson in British Columbia. I looked down and could see the whole place laid out as on a topographical map. River, lake, mountains, valleys ? all crystal clear from six miles up. The summer before I had been driving through Nelson, long after dark, trying to find a motel. There seemed neither rhyme nor reason to the roads in the part of town I was driving through, and I was hopelessly lost. But seen from above, the roads run the only way they possibly could in that setting. It seemed to me then (and now) that here was a metaphor, not just about necessity imposed by space, but even by time. God can see, as from a great height, ?riding on the wings of the wind? which is impossible for us who are surrounded by mountains and water. God sees our lives in their totality, not just the immediate moment, but the whole road we travel. God sees us when we are lost, inescapably, in the dark, but also recognizes us when we voyage through events and circumstances as open and predictable as the Prairie grassland terrain. It is not for nothing that biblical imagery of God is connected with height, that people are depicted as climbing mountains to meet God. It is as good a symbol of omniscience, to say nothing of the universal love that accompanies God?s omniscience, as I know. Archbishop Michael Peers is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.


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