Some landmarks are iconic in shape, identifiable by a simple silhouette. In contrast, this photo from Dr. Stanley’s archives shows only part of an unfamiliar building, and one tagged Location: Unknown at that. (It was only after extensive research that I determined this is part of the Basilica di San Marco, in Venice, Italy.) Dr. Stanley is especially skilled at taking expansive landscape shots, so this partial façade of a man-made structure was unexpected.
I often take similarly composed photos like this when I travel. A single brightly painted transom window, or the intricate patterns of terracotta roof tiles will catch my eye in the moment. But when I get home, I’m often disappointed to find the small view I’ve captured is unidentifiable, the location unknown. Pieces of a whole aren’t always so easy to distinguish.
Lately, a shot like this reminds me of the greatness of God and how, though I try, I can’t seem to get a really good look at Him. He is too big to be captured in my thinking, too grand to fit into my narrow viewfinder. I want so much to see Him in all of His fullness, to understand the whole of who He is and the intricate ways He operates in the world. But my perspective is limited, and He is boundless in every way.
That partial view can feel frustrating when we either have questions we want answered or yearn for any other answer than the one He has given. Verses like Romans 11:33 reinforce the nature of our struggle: “Oh, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” But those are moments when faith must step in, reminding us that “for now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I also have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). It is always a relief to realize that our struggles, while natural, are but temporary ones.
Though I try, I can’t seem to get a really good look at God. He is too big to be captured in my thinking, too grand to fit into my narrow viewfinder.
Fortunately, when we look closely, we can recognize the silhouette of God—in the stories of Scripture, in the words and actions of Jesus, in the witness of others, in His responses to our quiet prayers. When it comes to God’s character or handiwork, even the smallest moment of appreciation can be beautiful and breathtaking, especially if there’s recognition that what we see is just part of a far larger picture.
A partial view like this photo can only hint at the impressive dimensions of the whole. The entire structure surely presented a challenge to anyone attempting to fit all the gothic spires and soaring domes into a single viewfinder. But an enterprising photographer might choose to pass by the tourists teeming around the front façade, to this more quietly charming corner of the building. And they will find that even a small reflection of the whole has a beauty all its own.
Photograph by Charles F. Stanley