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The Prairies: Big and Small

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

"I would show you something to encourage you before you go."

Meg looked about. Ahead of her was a tremendous rhythmic swirl of wind and flame[. ...] This was a dance, a dance ordered and graceful, and yet giving an impression of complete and utter freedom, of ineffable joy. As the dance progressed, the movement accelerated, and the pattern became clearer, closer, wind and fire moving together, and there was joy, and song, melody soaring, gathering together as wind and fire united.

And then wind, flame, dance, song, cohered in a great swirling, leaping, dancing, single sphere.

Meg heard Mr. Jenkins's incredulous, "What was that?"

Blajeny replied, "The birth of a star."

Mr. Jenkins protested, "But it's so small I could hold it in the palm of my hand." And then an indignant snort, "How big am I?"

"You must stop thinking about size, you know. It is both relative and irrelevant."

At this point Meg could not be bothered with size. She wanted to know something else. "Progo, will the star be Named?"

"He calls them all by name," the cherubim said.

- Madeleine L'Engle, A Wind in the Door

Madeleine L’Engle’s book A Wind in the Door is the second novel after A Wrinkle in Time. One idea she explores is the relativity of size and distance. The main conflict is how a disease in the microscopic world of the human body is affecting the entire galaxy. You’d think that what happens in the human body would be too small to affect anything outside of the human body, but she makes a case that everything affects everything. She, of course, writes it in a much more creative way than just saying “everything affects everything,” so I encourage you to give her books a read!

The reason I quoted her was that as I was thinking about these two pieces of mine - an overhead view of the prairie fields near our farm, and a zoomed-in painting of a prairie weed - I reflected on how a painter also makes size relative. A sweeping vista and a tiny plant become the same 9x13 inch size. The artist’s perspective shrinks the too-big-to-comprehend into a smaller point and stretches the too-small-to-notice into a larger one, thus equalizing the two.

I love how in the A Wind in the Door passage Meg, the main character, catches the point of seeing the star, unlike the flabbergasted Mr Jenkins. It’s not about how big or small something is. It’s about Who Named it. God seems to have the best and most well-rounded perspective on all things, and when he created the stars, the earth, the lichen and the dirt, he gave a nod and declared, “it is good!”

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. (Luke 12:6)
When I look at 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, and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4)

He sees the “big” and “small” things of nature as they stand relative to himself. This makes all things infinitely small in comparison with him, but also infinitely important because they’re all His things. And in his love, he points out the bigness of the heavens and the smallness of the sparrows to reassure men and women that he cares about them! Are not sparrows small? Yet God sees them and remembers them. How much more will he remember you, O Human? Are not the heavens large? Is not the Moon wonderfully placed in the sky? And yet despite their greater splendour, God has placed little mankind in a place of honour, more precious than the cosmos in which humanity lives. Amazing!

I hope you are encouraged by these thoughts. Are you feeling small and unimportant? Remember that God is the God Who Sees You. He doesn’t consider you overlookable. Are you suffering from inflated pride? Remember your place in the universe. You didn’t set up this amazing world as your palace. It was given to you as a gift by a loving Father. Humble yourself and thank God for his generosity towards you! Are you living in a weird fluctuation between bad self-esteem and self-worship? Set aside the concepts of rank, esteem and importance as the world measures those things. Place yourself, small and meek, in the presence of God. He will show you your place - a place of simultaneous honour and lowliness before him. He will show you your Name, too, and only you and Him will share that secret!

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