The geography of our nation is an amazing collection of natural beauty—mountains of all shapes and sizes, lakes, rivers, wide deserts, and swaying grasslands. Some parts of the country metamorphose with each passing mile, but others—like the wide-open spaces of the Midwest—seem to go on forever, unchanging. As my grandfather once said, “Oklahoma is so flat you can watch your dog run away for three days.”
But how far can the human eye really see? Optometrist Robert Burke says that, accounting for the curvature of the earth, the horizon is roughly 4.7 km away at sea level. (That’s almost three miles, for those of us who don’t use the metric system.) So without any vision-enhancing tools like binoculars or telescopes, we can see up to three miles in any given direction. No more. Considering all that’s going on around us, it’s humbling to think about all we miss simply because we aren’t designed to perceive it.
Now, if we can get off the ground to a higher vantage point, it changes the game. That’s why I can hike the one-mile trail up Kennesaw Mountain near my home and see the city of Atlanta, which is about 20 miles away. From the top of the Empire State Building, a person can see roughly 80 miles away, which means that, weather-permitting, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts could all be visible.
Without tools like binoculars or telescopes, we can see up to three miles in any given direction. No more. Considering all that’s going on around us, it’s humbling to think about all we miss because we aren’t designed to perceive it.
The view from the top of Mount Everest is even more impressive. A person bold enough to climb it would be treated to a view of 336 km (209 miles). But even this is not the longest sightline on earth. That distinction belongs in theory to the line between Dankova Peak in Kyrgyzstan and Hindu-Tagh in China. The distance between them is an astounding 538 km (334 miles)! That would be like standing in Lansing, Michigan and being able to see all the way to Springfield, Illinois.
As amazing as that is, God’s viewpoint is greater still, for He isn’t limited by the mountains He made or even the curvature of the planet He crafted with a booming “Let there be...” For that reason and a thousand others, He alone declares, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9). He is so far above us—beyond us—that it is sometimes frightening to think of His vastness, His power and absolute mastery of all things.
But we don’t serve a fickle and domineering deity who cares nothing for the world and creatures He made. Instead, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:11-12). We may only be able to see three miles away (on a good day) with our failing human eyes, but we serve a God whose vision is perfect and whose mercies are new every morning.
We may only be able to see three miles away (on a good day) with our failing human eyes, but we serve a God whose vision is perfect and whose mercies are new every morning.
In his popular daily devotional Every Day in His Presence, Dr. Stanley writes, “When you mediate upon the Lord, you’ll see life from a different perspective. The issues that worry you lose their grip; the burdens that weaken you, God will turn to strength. Your viewpoint of relationships, tasks, problems, your enemies, and even your own personhood changes because you learn to see them all with the Father’s wisdom.”
Contemplating the Lord—everything He is and all He can do—helps us see the truth about Him and ourselves. Often, people fight this revelation because it shows them just how tiny and powerless they are. It’s a truth many simply aren’t willing to face. However, our smallness and limited vision contrast sharply with our heavenly Father’s. Situations that seem impossible at ground level are rightly understood from His perspective, and that’s why we must allow Him to shape and inform our viewpoint. When we do, life as we know it will change for the good.
Illustration by Adam Cruft