what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8:3)
There’s an old Chinese story about a frog that lived in a shallow well. The frog, who apparently never left the well, considered himself the greatest creature anywhere. After all, he had this great place to live and pretty much had the run of it. Who could want more? A sea-going turtle tried to explain what the frog missed in his well-bound existence, but the frog didn’t appreciate the limits of his existence until a drought dried up his world.
Have you ever been that frog? Have you ever found yourself as the top dog in the pack only to realize you’re surrounded by undernourished chihuahuas? Perhaps you’ve been the best singer in a small church, the top salesman in a country car dealership, or the most valuable player on a minor league baseball team. I’ve seen people get very impressed with themselves regarding a homeowners association or a school board. I’ve listened to academics present mediocre papers on obscure topics, thinking themselves awfully important.
It would be interesting to know when David wrote Psalm 8. Was this before or after Goliath? Before or after Saul’s death? Before or after Bathsheba? David had good reason to think highly of himself, yet he looked at the sky and realized that his greatness was trivial compared with the God who placed him on earth.
It is tempting for us, in the midst of hundreds of Facebook friends, in a swirl of advertisers all telling us how deserving we are of the finer things, to become the frogs in the well. But step back a bit and we realize that even the most important and powerful people are little more hiccups in the span of history.
If only that Chinese frog had been able to look up and see even a narrow span of stars above his well. Maybe then he would have seen what David saw.