My family and I are gathered on an outcropping of rocks high in the mountains, wondering at the stars. An unusually warm winter’s night has given us the luxury of this little excursion, and we’ve been rewarded with the sort of natural scene that sucks in your breath and makes you exhale in a long, slow whistle.
Planets dance above our heads, stars glimmer, and each of us take turns wishing upon the occasional meteorite. Orion stands guard at his post near the horizon, his belt cinched and shining. The Big Dipper looks as if it’s pouring the Milky Way upon our heads. The heavens are arrayed in a perfect sort of chaos, as if God has sneezed a miracle.
My son gazes up and wonders of rocket ships and aliens. My daughter? Angels and celestial playgrounds. My wife is wondering why we don’t come up here more often, because we should.
And me? I’m thinking about a dog I met last summer.
Late July. No rain for weeks. The air was so hot and humid that it made you walk with your back hunched.
Standing at the bottom of a hill in town, minding my own business, there came a sudden and steady stream of water toward me. Then more. And more. Surrounding my feet, inching up my shoes to almost the ankle.
A walk up the hill confirmed the source of this minor miracle—four firemen had cracked a hydrant. “Testing things out,” one told me.
As I stood there and kept them company, a neighborhood dog ambles up so I could scratch its head. Tail wagging and tongue drooping, he sniffed and snorted and paced, as if confused by the dichotomy of an abundance of water and the lack of means to acquire it. The firemen, lost in the duties, paid little attention to the dog. I, however, did.
I knew what the dog was going to do.
More sniffing and wagging and pacing. Then, in a desperate attempt to satisfy his thirst, the dog stuck his tongue into the gushing water.
Why he didn’t simply head to the bottom of the hill and drink there, I don’t know. Some dogs just aren’t that smart. Much like people. I do know, however, that he got more than a mere sip. Water gushed into his mouth and over his face with such force and weight that it nearly drowned him. Good thing there were firemen close by.
That’s what I’m thinking as I look up at these stars.
“The heavens declare the glory of God,” said David. Funny word, that “glory.” Translated from the Hebrew, it comes closer to “weight.” The heavens declare the weight of God.
Now, in this remote place with the heavens above me, I am much like that dog. Longing and thirsty and maybe not so smart. And drowning. Not in the weight of water, but in the weight of God.
Never let it be said that God hides from us. He is as near as a glance out the window, a walk in the park, or a rock to sit on. He pours Himself out in sunsets and rainstorms, in the blossoming of a flower or the falling snow.
As I sit on that rock with my family, staring until my neck aches and my back knots, I am reintroduced to the God I knew before I knew God. My childhood God. The One I spent time with before I knew what the words colored red in my Bible said and meant.
I am fortunate enough to sit in church every Sunday and listen to someone expound upon those words. Fortunate, too, that I can sit with my Bible and have those words speak to me.
But I’ve never lost sight of that other sermon, the one given to believer and doubter alike. We drink from God’s fire hydrant every day, drowned in the inescapable weight of His power and creativity and love.