How Does God See Us?
Even though his father was a prominent member of Congress, Charles Lindbergh was still just a farm boy from Minnesota. When he made the first solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927, he went from unknown to most famous man in the world overnight. Ticker tape parades, speaking engagements, paparazzi, press, publicity, fame and fortune were his.
Then it all came crashing down.
In 1932, his infant son was kidnapped and murdered.
His non-interventionist and isolationist stance before WW2 branded him a Nazi sympathizer and he plunged from hero to hated. The press that had honored him now despised him. He went on to fly combat missions in the war, but he never recovered his public reputation.
He couldn’t take it, so he moved to the most remote place he could find – the nearly inaccessible Hana side of Maui where he lived out his days, died and is buried. Engraved on his tombstone is a portion of Psalm 139:9 from the King James version of the Bible. It reads:
If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea…
Lindbergh did so literally, but the point of the psalm is that no matter where we go, we cannot escape God’s notice. God sees us. Always.
“You hem me in, behind and before,” (139:5a) – hemmed in, searched, known, nowhere to hide or escape – I have always read Psalm 139 as a divine critical review, an examination by the Almighty Judge that I am destined to repeatedly fail.
But what if the divine gaze is instead one of a tender loving parent, like the nursing mother of Psalm 131? What if it is the gaze of gentle care rather than the critical glare of a stern judge?
What if the scrutiny of God is not at all like the critical examinations of a fickle public and relentless yellow-dog press?
Lindbergh surely knew the context of Psalm 139:
7Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and night wraps itself around me,” 12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. (NRSVUE)
By his epitaph, was he saying there’s nowhere to hide? Or, was he communicating to the very few who make the effort to visit his grave that although a person with sufficient means can escape the crowds and the press, they cannot escape the presence of God?
And, if the latter, which is more in line with the meaning of the Psalm, did Lindbergh understand that, unlike the crowds, God looks upon us with kindness and love, with the tender gaze of and watery eyes of new parent?
“Little one,” the ewe said to her lamb, “God is not scrutinizing you to find fault, but tenderly watching over you as the apple of his eye.”