“Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky”
Morning can be a struggle with dull affections and discouragement, but it’s also a time of hope. It’s a fresh start from the disappointments of the day past. Perhaps, we think, today will be the day I’ll be disciplined and check off all the items on my to-do list. Maybe today I’ll be more patient or make more time for God. Perhaps today will be better.
By afternoon, however, reality sets in. Our initial excitement fades as we realize that today is eerily similar to yesterday. The day is half-gone, and we’re already off track and in a rut. A cloud of restlessness settles over us. Our space begins to feel constraining and claustrophobic.
In these moments, I find it helpful to take a walk and look up at the sky.
There is something about the beauty and expansiveness of the sky that helps with my feelings of internal clutter. It’s as if when I’m inside, trapped in my own thoughts, there is a camera zoomed in at an uncomfortably close angle, but outside it gradually returns to a normal perspective. I can breathe easier and think more clearly.
Looking Up, Becoming Small
When we’re frustrated at ourselves, the world around us shrinks until our shortcomings are the only things in focus. We berate ourselves: Why can’t I change? Why can’t I do anything right? The weight of current and past failures bears down on us. We begin to feel suffocated and trapped. If we’re not careful, these are the moments when we can spiral into temptation or unhealthy coping mechanisms*.
We need help to look away from ourselves. Just as seeing the sky helps us regain perspective when we’re stressed, prayer reminds us that our self-focused frustrations are small in light of the expansive love and wisdom of God.
The Bible often features the sky as a metaphor to describe the majesty and greatness of God. In Psalm 8:3-4, the Psalmist looks to the heavens and meditates with wonder that the almighty Creator cares for tiny specks of dust like us:
 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? (ESV)
Psalm 103:10-12 uses the sky to describe the immensity of God’s mercy and forgiveness toward his children:
 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (ESV)
Your Kingdom Come
The next time you feel restless and frustrated, take a deep breath. Resist the temptation to turn to the temporary relief of sin or trivialities. Instead, go outside, take a walk, and look up.
Let the expansiveness and beauty of the sky point you to our big God. See how the sky expands beyond your peripheral vision, stretching to an eternity on either side? That is how far God has separated your sin from you in Christ. See the bright blue of afternoon or the violet hues of evening? They are the handiwork of our God, who created the heavens and the earth, and who cares for us though we are but dust.
From there, take to heart Jesus’ opening to the Lord’s prayer: “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come”**. I like to pray my own para-phased version: “It’s not about me, it’s all about you. It’s not about me, it’s all about your kingdom.” My frustrations pale in light of God’s love for me. My shortcomings may detract from my tiny kingdom here on earth, but they cannot hinder the wise plan of my Sovereign God, who has called me his own.
Remembering who God is helps reframe my frustrations into proper perspective. All is not lost. My failures are not the final word. I am still loved by God. I am still a part of his plan.
Walk around and enjoy the fresh air. Then, come back. Make a modest plan for the rest of the evening and then prayerfully carry it out. Remember that it’s never too late to redeem the day, even when it’s gotten off to a poor start.
Our Creator, who made the heavens and whose love is wider than the sky, is with us. We can bring our frustrations to him, release them to his strong grip, and take the next step forward in obedience and faith.
See previous posts in the series:
- What is Prayer? – Metaphors for the Weary Christian
- The Sun on a Snowy Morning
- An Empty Pail at the Ocean
*John Piper has an insightful quote contrasting the expansiveness of the sky with the puny pleasure of sin:
“Do you know why there are no windows on adult book stores? Or do you know why there are no windows on certain kinds of nightclubs in the city? I suppose your answer would be, “Well, because they don’t want people looking in and getting a free sight.” That is not the only reason. You know why? Because they don’t want people looking out at the sky. You know why? The sky is the enemy of lust. I just ask you to think back on your struggles. The sky is a great power against lust. Pure, lovely, wholesome, powerful, large-hearted things cannot abide the soul of a sexual fantasy at the same time…There is something about bigness, something about beauty that helps battle against the puny, small, cruddy use of the mind to fantasize about sexual things.”
Be wary that when our self-focused frustrations become inflated, so too does the temptation for a quick, sinful fix. Seeing the sky and remembering God bigness puts our small frustrations and the trivial pleasure of sin back into perspective.
**Years ago, I wrote this song about the Lord’s prayer. Prayer reminds us we are small before God and that is the best place we can be.