You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
I have been reading the draft of a book written by a friend’s father; it’s a beautiful reflection on his faith journey, with opportunities to pause and reflect on your own. In it he talks about us being part of the picture that God is painting in the world. I wondered about that; the world is such a big place. I was thinking yesterday of the mountains in the deep places of the sea. The thought of those towering peaks far below the light, where unknown creatures live and it is always night, makes me conscious of how small I am. When I reflect on the vastness of space, on the stars that exist in numbers too big for our minds to comprehend, I sense even more the infinitesimal place my short life occupies, in a universe that is older than we can imagine.
Is it really true that my days are a significant part of this unfolding story? It seems an impossible thought. But then I remembered my visit to Amsterdam in 2014, where I had the privilege of visiting the Rijksmuseum. The Night Watch, one of Rembrandt’s best known works, is housed there. It is a massive painting, covering an entire wall in the museum. I was overwhelmed, both by the idea that I was standing in front of the original canvas and by its sheer size and magnificence. But I noticed something else. It is filled with minute details. The more I looked at it, the more I saw; every colour, every face was carefully portrayed. Even the shadows served a purpose. Another of Rembrandt’s paintings, The Jewish bride, also hangs in the Rijksmuseum. It is believed to be a depiction of a father with his daughter, just before her marriage. It is beautiful, and I confess that it reduced me to tears. I imagined Rembrandt at his easel, paying attention to each brushstroke, every shade or hue or texture a part of the whole.
I sometimes spend hours editing pieces I have written, sifting through my word choices, the placement of a sentence in a paragraph. I scour my thesaurus, searching for the perfect word to round off a line of poetry or convey an exact nuance of meaning. It is a delight and a joy to play with the words, to craft something of meaning and, hopefully, beauty.
Perhaps this is how my small life is part of a big picture, unfolding in the universe. Each choice and action is part of a greater whole. A beautiful work of art is, after all, made of a succession of brushstrokes. A quilt is created stitch by tiny stitch. A magnificent novel is made of strings of letters tied to one another. It is the coming together of these little things that creates things of great value, beauty and power.