The Overview Effect

I watched a video of a dad sobbing as he said goodbye to his young daughter and wife as they boarded a bus. They were leaving; he was staying behind.

Most people are saying the man is a Ukranian father sending his family to Hungary so he can stay behind and fight the invading Russian troops. Others are saying he’s from the pro-Russian city of Gorlovka, sending his family to Russia so he can stay behind and fight the invading Ukranian troops.

I don’t know which one is true. Maybe neither. And that’s part of the problem. I get so tired of having to sift through which parts of which news stories are true, which parts are false, and who stands to profit by peddling which cleverly spun lies.

Isaiah lamented, “Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter” (Isaiah 59:14). Every day, I feel like I can relate to that lament more and more.

But… that video. Whoever it was, whatever “side” he was on, whenever it happened—all I could think about was my own little girl. My son. My wife. I thought about how I would feel if it was me in his shoes—saying goodbye to my children, my wife—wondering, praying, hoping.


It made me angry.

I’m still angry.

This is our world. This is the world humanity has managed to create in 6,000 years of doing whatever seems right in its own eyes. We pride ourselves on all our accomplishments, but at the core of it, we’ve never moved past that basic human instinct of saying, “I want what he has”—and trying to take it.

From the man in the field with his brother Abel to the man in charge of a nuclear superpower, it’s the same old story. We want, we take, we destroy. Families are shattered. Lives are disrupted, ruined—ended.

And fathers put their daughters and wives on buses and weep.

* * *

When astronauts go into space for the first time and see our little blue-green planet floating in the inky, star-filled cosmos, they tend to experience something called the “overview effect.”

Edgar Mitchell, an Apollo 14 astronaut, spent 33 hours on the moon in February of 1971. This is how he described the feeling of seeing Earth from that new perspective:

“You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a b***h.'”

I hope you’ll forgive the language. But I think that quote communicates something powerful.

As Christians, our knowledge of God’s plan gives us something of an overview effect, too. We can have that feeling of stepping out into space and seeing the absolute madness of this world we’ve built for ourselves, of wanting to force the leaders of the world to see the same truths we can.

They can’t see, though. Not yet.

But they will.

Isaiah may have seen truth fallen in the street, but he also saw a far better vision from God:

Look to Me, and be saved,
All you ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
I have sworn by Myself;
The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness,
And shall not return,
That to Me every knee shall bow,
Every tongue shall take an oath.
He shall say,
“Surely in the LORD I have righteousness and strength.
To Him men shall come,
And all shall be ashamed
Who are incensed against Him.
In the LORD all the descendants of Israel
Shall be justified, and shall glory.”

(Isaiah 45:22-25)

When we know what’s coming, the politics and wars of this world do become so petty—and so heartbreakingly pointless.

When every knee bows to the Creator of the universe, the pointlessness will finally come to an end. The brutal senselessness of invasions and territorial squabbles will be forcibly ended, because “everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken” (Micah 4:4).

The world will be what it was always meant to be, because the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.

That is the world that’s coming. That is what we’re looking toward and praying for. Sometimes, it can be easy to forget how broken our little blue-green planet is. Sometimes, we can convince ourselves that the human race is actually doing pretty well and things aren’t so bad.

And then there’s a video of a daddy saying goodbye—maybe for the last time—to his little girl, and you realize how terribly we need those knees to bow.

Habakkuk asked, “O LORD, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? Even cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ and You will not save. Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble? … The law is powerless, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore perverse judgment proceeds” (Habakkuk 1:2-4).

God answered, “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:2-3, ESV).

The vision is coming. The knees will bow. The mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.

Until next time,

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