I did a workshop at a conference in Canada not long ago. It was right across the U.S. border in St. Catherine’s, Ontario. This area is part of the larger region including Niagara Falls. So, on Wednesday, five of us shared a car and went to the Falls. If you have not visited, it is hard to describe—the magnitude of water, the immense roaring sound, the sun shining through the rising mist creating constant rainbows over the thundering waters. The two enormous falls—one on the American side and one on the Canadian—cascade over one hundred and eighty feet of space, pouring an average of more than one-hundred and fifty-thousand gallons of water per second all day, every day.
Experiencing Niagara Falls was awe-inspiring. And yet there’s so much more than the Falls themselves. My Canadian friend drove us downriver, explaining the Niagara escarpment, the cliff and geographic phenomenon created by the sharp drop of the earth of three hundred feet in one cataclysmic event thousands of years ago. Offering beautiful vistas and wine growing, sporting and leisure, and an entire micro-climate, This part of Ontario is surrounded by a giant water system of which these amazing falls are only a tiny part. Lake Ontario to the north where the Niagara River flows, and Lake Erie to the south, where Niagara’s water comes from, combine to moderate temperatures—thus creating milder summers and winters and better soil for excellent crops. All kinds of vegetables and fruits, including plenty of peaches and apples are harvested, along with grapes for wine—some of the best in the world.
The Bigger Picture
The water that moderates this climate and the escarpment that formed the landmass are part of an even larger system. Much of the water that flows from Lake Erie over the falls, into Lake Ontario up the St. Lawrence River, and further to the Atlantic actually begins hundreds of miles south in the even larger, more complex systems of Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and beyond. The total expanse covers twenty-four hundred miles.
Considering how mind-boggling and awe-inspiring this all is, it is not surprising we just simply think too small and imagine too little.
The Even Bigger Picture
Dr. Eben Alexander discusses this idea of “too-small thinking” in his recent book, Proof of Heaven. A neuro-surgeon, his near-death experience is changing the way many think about our connections to a much larger and sacred mystery. Unlike other recent theorists on this subject, Dr. Alexander describes in intimate detail and scientific specificity the absolute impossibility of what his near-death experience gave him. From a massive e-coliviral infection, he was brain dead—with a non-functioning neocortex, the part of the brain responsible for consciousness. In other words, he was in a coma, clinically dead and with no ability to think, dream, imagine, or remember. But, despite the limitations of human language, he describes in detail the indescribable and unimaginable. Dr. Alexander doesn’t dwell on the unspeakably profound ramifications beyond our here and now. Rather, he rose from his coma with the simple and clear message: Do not be afraid and love.
The richness of life is bigger than we know or can even imagine—the vitality of life, the vastness for our potential to do good and experience beauty, how we are interconnected across races, religions, and regions, and how deep and wide and precious God’s love for us is. This is Jesus’ message to these brothers through his story of the rich fool.
We are called to better vision, to see with eyes of wonder the many ways our lives are touched and blessed by others, along with how many opportunities we have to touch and bless others. Let us be wiser. Let us be grateful. Let us love God and one another with all we have and all we are. In doing so, we do God’s will, on earth, as it is in heaven.
Living with faith today, then, requires this expansive vision Jesus advocates. As we have seen over these many chapters, faith evolves over time slowly, and sometimes strangely. Faith also has journeyed a circuitous route that includes confusion, digression, hatred, and vast misunderstandings that still continue.
But most of all, living with faith offers this good and broader perspective of who we are, whose we are, and what we can and should do in our community and our world. Let us join together and live with expanded vision and imagination of that which God hopes for us all.