Sunday, March 05, 2006

To Be Counted Among the Living

As a young adult, I am no longer a child. However, childhood is so close and its memories are so fresh. In the increased busyness of adult life, my thoughts have often turned back to formative memories from childhood. Recently, the demands of being a new school teacher required so much attention that I became aware of my need to pause and remember what a joy it is to be counted among the living. The following memory came to mind.

When I was around the age of seven, I remember waking up in the middle of my sleep to face some forceful questions. Surrounded by the blackness of the night, my boundless imagination transported me away from the constraints of all that I knew to be real and true.

My imaginings were not of fairy book fantasies but of “What if” questions that seemed even more real than all my childish knowledge. “What if I didn’t exist?” “What if the whole world didn’t exist?” “What if all was utter darkness and bleakness?” These questions always seemed like good ones to me, for I did not take for granted the fact that life was marvelous, mysterious, and perhaps even improbable.

Although these questions are distinct in my memory, clearer still is the remembrance of a certain feeling that always followed the questions. It was a feeling of childish helplessness, of infinite smallness and of incredulous belief that I, Sarah Angell, existed at all. I felt as though I were not me, as though I could somehow comprehend life outside of me. The feeling would never last more than ten seconds because the reality of the world around me always quickly sucked me back. Yet even those ten seconds left me with an awesome sense of the total gift of life and of existence. The improbability of me, my life and the world was so consuming that my only response was inexplicable marvel.

Those were moments of worship that remain quite precious in my memory. They were the first teetering steps of a child walking toward the understanding of the greatness of God. In the shadows of the unknown, was the clear figure of a God who created, sustained and ordered an entire universe that was real.

Perhaps this is the awe that Job comprehended when he questions of God, "What is man that you make so much of him, that you give him so much attention?" (7:17) And perhaps, too, it is the sentiment of the psalmist when he asks, "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? " (Psalm 8)