(And God says) the earth will wear out like a garment, and those who live on it will die like gnats; but my salvation will be forever and my deliverance will never be ended. - Isaiah 51:6b
I was fifteen years old the first time I knew I was a gnat - that is, relatively insignificant and brief in the scheme of creation. I was in a canoe with a couple of others in the middle of a summer night, on a lake far to the north. Above, a carpet of stars, the brightest I've ever seen. Below, the sky again, perfectly reflected in the fathomless black water. When the loons started calling, their eerie cry echoing off the stars above and below, vertigo struck. The dizziness was so unsettling, I asked to go back to the dock, where I lay on my back, trying to get my bearings. "We are so big," the stars and the water and the loon sang, "And you are so very small."
Like many things that are alarming at first, I've learned to be grateful for my, well, gnatanity. The gnat's time on earth is short (less than two weeks), but prolific (she can produce three hundred offspring in that time!). Her life may be tiny in both size and duration, but the gnat does not worry about the future or regret the past. She does not fantasize that she might be destined for greatness if only certain conditions were changed. Neither does she suffer the slings and arrows of self-doubt. She does neither more nor less than what she is placed here to do. Why would I want to be anything but this - to be fruitful, focused, unflustered
Enormity Upon Enormities - Alleluia! You are God and I am not. Amen.
Jennifer Brownell is the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Vancouver, Washington, and the author of Swim, Ride, Run, Breathe: How I Lost a Triathlon and Caught My Breath, her inspiring memoir.