Saturday, May 2, 2009

Center stage

I remember clearly the moment I realized the world didn't revolve around me.  I was in first or second grade, living in Ypsilanti, Michigan and one night as I lay in my twin bed--you know, the one with the off-white puffy vinyl headboard in the bedroom I shared with my sister (who turned 50 today, Happy Birthday, Dump!)--and for some reason, I began thinking about a friend who lived on the next street.  Suddenly--and this is such a strong memory, I can actually smell the vinyl, and see the light from the hallway coming in through our partially open door--it occured to me that she was moving around her house, lying in her bed, living a whole life that had nothing to do with me.  And it hit me that until that moment, I'd really thought of other people as if my life was center stage, and only in my presence did anything happen.  It was like everyone else just waited, like carboard cutouts, until I was around.  That revelation was shocking to me.  And then it was shocking to me that I'd ever thought such a thing. Of course, everyone else in the world was living their own life.  How silly, how childish to think otherwise.

Writing this out now, it all sounds quite absurd.  But that moment has always stayed with me.  It was the starting point to faith, I think now.  I had started on the road toward understanding that not only am I not the sun, but my life was a momentary thing in eternity.  That was a stage I went through too--the sense that I was nothing more than a speck in time, and there would be no ripple in the universe when I was gone.  In those days--my junior high years--I was terrified of death because there was nothing beyond it.  That phase catapulted me into faith.  To discovering that though my life is small and fleeting, it has purpose because I was created intentionally by God for relationship with Him and other humans.

However, I still need to be reminded (more often than I like to admit) that I am not the center of the universe, that everyone I meet, interact with, as well as all of humanity, lives lives that are unrelated to my presence.  I am not the most important person in the world.  But at the same time, I'm every bit as important as anyone who's ever lived.  As important as kings and prime ministers, as plumbers and prostitutes.  Exactly the same.  In God's eyes there are no unnecessary people, not a single redundant soul. This is a revelation I need over and over.  When I lie in my bed tonight, letting the names and faces of those I've thought of and spoken to today, I'll be thanking Him for the unique and precious lives they are living beyond my knowledge and presence.  As I write this right now, I'm thinking of all those ripples in the universe caused by every individual who's ever breathed (and the myriad more who never had a chance!!!).  And I'm especially thankful that I'm not the center of the universe--God knows how I'd screw it up if I were--but that HE is.

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