Size and perspective.
I have to tell you about Honeyland, a film that blew me away so much that I had to go see it again last night. It’s an astonishing documentary, a visual poem, about a woman in rural Macedonia, who supports herself and her ailing ancient mother by selling honey from the bees that she cares for with love. She sings and chants encouragement to these tiny bee creatures, and she loves them as deeply as she loves her mama. The movie speaks so much truth to us about life, about humility, about who we are in the grand scheme of things. These little bees, our connection to them and to one another, the delicate balance between all things in this, God’s creation (not ours) that we humans need to respect and maintain: it’s a real story that puts a mirror up to the culture of our own country, a critique against the hubris and prideful arrogance that our leaders are claiming to be an American right.
I was sitting in the church late Thursday night after the movie. All the lights were out, it was dark, the sound of the incessant New York traffic just outside. Suddenly this tiny flying bug appeared out of nowhere and landed on my pants. He had a little black body and two very large silvery-white wings, and he was very very tiny. Now, any other time I would have most likely batted him into heaven, or squished him into eternity, but for some reason this time I just watched him. I watched him as he walked all over my pants and then onto my shirt, and then right onto my arm. He was walking on my skin, sometimes climbing onto a hair and tightrope walking it onto the next hair, sometimes just walking on the bare skin. I put my hand in front of him and he walked right onto my finger and into my palm, and when I put the other hand next to him, he walked right onto that one too.
I began to have an affection for this little bug, and wondered if he had any idea that he was walking all over a giant's body. I don't think he did. He certainly had no knowledge or fear that I could just squish him out of existence. He was completely innocent and completely dependent on my benevolence, and lucky for him, he had chosen to explore the body of a benevolent giant. I made a circle with my thumb and index finger, and cupped my hands to make a little cave, like this, and he walked right through it like it was the entrance to a huge cathedral.
It reminded me of when I was a little guy myself. I had the chance to go back to my elementary school before they permanently renovated it and converted it into condominiums. I hadn't been there since I was in sixth grade, and all my memories of it were of this huge building of endless hallways and jillions of classrooms, a gigantic auditorium and gymnasium and cafeteria. The whole thing had shrunk, it was tiny. Tiny hallways, low ceilings, there weren't all that many classrooms, and the ones that were there were little and really cramped-looking. The bathrooms all had sinks and toilets and urinals that were really small and low to the ground; the auditorium and the gym and the cafeteria were about the size I remembered the classrooms to be. I don't know what happened to the place.
It's a matter of size and perspective I guess, and maybe it has something to do with age, and maybe something else. While he was making his way to Jerusalem, someone asked Jesus if everyone would make it into heaven. Yes, he said, but to do so, you must "come in through the narrow door. Many, I tell you, will try to enter and be unable." Through the narrow door, the tiny one, the humiliating one built for little people, try to come through that one, Jesus said, knowing full well that it was the only door for him as well as for us, the door he would find open and waiting for him on a hill in Jerusalem.
It's a matter of size and perspective, I guess, and of how old we grow up to be. When you're little and mostly innocent, like a child, or like a bee or a little bug with silvery-white wings, you see things with a certain perspective of truth, you see things as they really are: gigantic, enormous, humongous hallways, water fountains, doors, the hair of a finger--but more importantly you see how small and dependent you are, how needy and fragile and alone you are in a world that is much bigger than you can really handle.
The truth is, no matter how old and how big we may think we become, we are as small as a little bug with silvery-white wings, and when in all humility we realize how small we really are, the door that stands open before us is not narrow at all, but wide as a river and high as the sky. Behind that door, if we would but step into it--march into it--behind Jesus himself, behind that door is the One who created us and sustains us in gigantic, stupendous love.
The problem is, the door becomes narrow and hard to pass through the bigger we are, the bigger we think ourselves to be, the more we justify ourselves personally or nationally. You see, it is our own faults magnified by our pride and our self-righteousness that blow us up so big we can't fit through the door. I realized that as I sat there in the chapel, as a little bug with silvery-wings entered the cathedral of my hand. Humility, to know, deep down in our hearts, that we are as tiny and as dependent on God’s goodness to us as that bug was to me, there’s the truth of it all.
How many of us are that humble?
It’s not the value or a virtue in our culture: to be humble and small is dumb, and foolish, it makes you look weak, people take advantage of you, win arguments against you. Precisely. There’s no way to get through the door if you think you are the Chosen One. Jesus warns us not to follow the falsehoods of our culture, or of our politicians.
It's a matter of size and perspective, I guess, and here at this altar is the truth of the matter. Here, in a little piece of bread, and a little bit of wine, so tiny that you can hardly see them up here, in the bread and wine is the narrow door made wide for you and for me. To see it that way, to see the truth of what it really is, you've got to become small again, and dependent, and humble. To see the miracle on this altar, you've got realize your own faults and forgive the faults of your brother and sister, husband, wife, father, mother, brother, sister, children, friend-- even the faults of your enemy.
When you receive from this table in a little while, remember how small you are as you approach, and how big you become when you leave, Jesus running through your very blood. Come up here in humility, like a little child., like an innocent little bug. It's a matter of size and perspective all right, and something else.