Today is my birthday.
On this date twenty-five years ago, I entered this world. Opened my eyes for the first time. Joined the ranks of beating hearts.
For every birthday since, there has been one thing that has always remained constant. After every celebration, I have found my feet firmly planted on the ground. My view of life around me: horizontal and concrete.
Very different from the view I see today–vertical and ever-changing.
On this birthday there will be 39,000 feet between the ground and me.
The truth is, there have been 39,000 feet between the ground and me a lot lately. I have stepped onto twenty flights in the last ten weeks.
Every pilot has landed the plane somewhere new and unfamiliar to me, so I’ve spent plenty of time with my nose pressed to the glass drinking in new sights. I indulge in the beautiful luxury of stillness, my forehead leaning on the window beside me as I sit quietly and watch the world go by.
There is something really special about the view from up that high. The land below stretches out and falls away making it look small and enormous in the same glance. I’m suddenly gazing at a vast topographical model like the ones you see in museums. Instead of one battlefield or city, I see everything. All of it. Stretching farther than my eyes can reach.
Flat farmlands connect like patches on a quilt. Colors and patterns threaded together by dirt roads.
Rivers wind and twist, running like veins across the earth, flowing, giving life to stagnant things.
Clouds float delicately alongside, so close you could reach out and touch them. They are never concerned by the strangers passing through their midst.
Some mountains rise up in friendly competition, each one stretching higher than the last. Others have their chests puffed out proudly, reveling in their glittery crowns of snow. They all stand stoically beside one another like broad-shouldered soldiers vowing solemnly to protect the valley below.
Canyons carved in the dry places, always watching the clouds beside you waiting for rain to refill their cracked walls.
Pools of lake water–puddles of sky fallen to the earth–are nestled sweetly between the hills, waiting with kindness for the wanderer who approaches thirsty for beauty and peace.
It’s clarifying in the most soul-clearing way. It’s perspective. It’s zooming out to remember for a moment that the world is big and I am small. Those mountains have stood at their posts since long before I entered this world twenty-five years ago and will go on standing without my help or permission for years to come.
I see the topographical model of my life so far. Twenty-five years stretched out behind me. Dry deserts, mountain peaks, valley beds, running rivers. Every part singing a different note in harmony to the same song.
You can hear them all the way up there, you know—39,000 feet in the air. You can still hear the rocks.
I imagine they sing out in a sweet, tenor tone. The trees in the forests join in with a rich alto, and the mountains belt out in strength and provide the foundational bass. And the running waters of the rivers sing a clear soprano melody.
You can hear them all the way up here, crying out to their Creator. Singing a never-ending song of His faithfulness.
“The Lord has promised good to me
His Word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.”
-Amazing Grace, Chris Tomlin
I can’t think of a better place to be on my birthday than right here, 39,000 feet in the air, joining in the song.