Too close

Wedged between a large man and the plane window, I wonder where else in our society a person has to have constant contact with a stranger for four straight hours.

It’s uncomfortable. Awkward.

In our age of efficient air travel, we are permitted one piece of carry-on luggage and one smaller item, but no sense of personal space. That must be left in the gate area, where everyone – sensing the depravation to come – sits in syncopation with a buffer of an empty seat on either side.

 

On the plane, we all retreat into private worlds. Mine involves listening to music and attempting to draw in my daily journal, which is a tricky combination of timing (Watch out for turbulence!) and dexterity (Don’t let a pen fall into the unreachable Underseat World!).

We are all too close for comfort.

 

Then I look out of the window and consider the great love of God. The landscape below is tranquil, under the gauze of a slight haze. In the distance, there is a small cloud of white smoke. This is the right distance to observe humanity without engaging, without the clinging, acrid smell of the fire and the taste of ash.

But that was not the right distance for God. His love required getting closer. As Augustine wrote, “Nothing was so necessary for raising our hope as to show us how deeply God loved us. And what could afford us a stronger proof of this than that the Son of God should become a partner with us of human nature?”

This is love: that Jesus “emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Phil. 2:7) And as a human, he didn’t preach from a distance, but moved so close-pressed at times that once, in a crowd, when he asked who had touched him, his disciples were baffled. They must have thought, “Who hasn’t?”

Too close for comfort, but not too close for Christ.

How great is your love, Lord! How it boggles my mind that you would enter this messed up world in order to open a way to heaven for us. You left your Father’s throne above, so free, so infinite your grace. Amazing love, indeed. Help me to have the same humility to serve those around me, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me.

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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