Moore: A little lower than the angels
I recently joined some friends for a backcountry muzzleloader elk hunt. Emphasis on the word “hunt.” If there were any elk in a 10-mile radius, trust me, they were completely safe.
That said, those five days in the shadow of the Gore Range were the highlight of my year. In my very first “God and Coffee” column I recalled the bliss of early morning hunt camp coffee, and how “something so simple could bring so much joy.” Joy indeed.
Eventually I abandoned my fantasy of finding any elk and chose instead to climb nearby Elliot’s Ridge. Maybe I could even summit Meridian Peak, one of the smaller peaks of the Gore Range. It would be a 10-mile round trip hike with 2000 vertical feet, a pretty tall order for me, but I had stared at that ridge for years and decided to go for it.
Cresting Elliot’s wasn’t much of a problem, and I gradually made my way up to the peak. Meridian is only 12,426 feet, but from its summit, the craggy peaks of the Gore are absolutely right in your face. It was stunning. Sitting under the cairn to avoid the wind, I thought, “Wow… I wonder how long it’s been since someone else made it all the way up here?” That’s when I noticed the summit registry canister right next to me. Pulling out the log sheet, I added my name and date to the list. So cool! Then I made the mistake of looking at the date of the last brave soul to conquer Meridian. Hmmm … that date looks familiar. Wait … that is today!
It turns out that in the week before my trek five people had signed the registry, one being an entire family. They probably jogged up. Nothing like a little humble pie to quiet the soul.
Here’s my point. On the one hand, in that moment I was overcome with the beauty and majesty of God’s creation. Now, I know you don’t have to believe in God to appreciate the beauty of nature, but I do believe in God, and the fact that I am even able to comprehend the concept of beauty is, in my humble opinion, powerful evidence that God exists (and that he is good). On the other hand, I experienced the gentle, even humorous, rebuke of my pride in the climb. Combined, these simultaneous thoughts moved from my mind, down through my emotions, and into the depth of my most sincere beliefs.
“I am so small.” That’s what my soul told me in the awe of that moment. Then it occurred to me that I didn’t think “I am insignificant.” Why not? I mean, there I sit, a speck of energized carbon amidst the majesty of the Gore Range, itself a small formation in the greater Rocky Mountains, and themselves but a speck of dust in this universe. Add the billions of souls across human history, and who I am to think that I am not insignificant? Call it God, or call it the quirks of memory, but my mind landed on a verse of ancient Hebrew poetry.
“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”
That’s from Psalm 8. Let me paraphrase: “God, when I consider the awe of these mountains, the beauty of our home here in Colorado, even the simple joy of a cup of coffee … if you really are creator of everything, then who am I? Why would you even notice me, much less care for me?”
Across the millennia the answer returns, bringing hope to any who will hear. The poem continues: “You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.”
Wow. Friends, to this little speck of energized carbon, that is mind-blowing. Our lives are beyond significant, and your life matters more than anyone can comprehend. Not because of anything you have done, but because the God who sculpted the Gore Range through the paintbrush of nature also created you, and he declares that you are just a little lower than the angels.
You matter, and God took on human form, lived among us, died at our hands, and rose from the dead so that he could reclaim you as his own. One speck of carbon to another, that’s really good news, and I would love to talk with you about it. As always, I’ll buy the coffee.
Ethan Moore is the pastor of Trinity Church in Edwards. He and his wife Lisa have lived in the valley since 1995. You can reach him at email@example.com.