Variations on a theme.

Funny how this year’s Fourth of July weekend hit some of the same notes as last year’s, but in completely different ways. I ate at Five Guys on the Fourth both years, though the details were different. Last year, while I was there, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. This year, I watched fireworks with that same friend. I watched fireworks with my pastor and his wife on the Fourth last year. I visited with them the day before this year. The fireworks at Joe Davis and Bridge Street were different days this year, so I was able to watch them both. Last year, I watched them both, at the same time. Lots of similarities, lots of differences.

Comparing the actual fireworks experiences between the two years was interesting. I loved the experience I had last year — very unique, and very cool. This year’s experience was a little more traditional. Also very enjoyable, but each so distinctively what it was that there’s almost no way to compare the two.

This year I watched the fireworks on Saturday at Joe Davis Stadium from the other side of the Parkway. Not bad. Then, on Sunday, I watched the fireworks at Bridge Street from the edge of the pond. Very not bad. After a teasingly slow start, it was a rather impressive display, with a great variety of fireworks and an awesome grand finale. Last year, I watched from a distance, and it was great being there, with the display being bright and loud and immediate and visceral. Very cool.

Last year’s experience was a a completely different animal. I wrote an entry on here afterward about how it was practically spiritual. I watched from atop Green Mountain, and saw fireworks from all over the Huntsville area spread out in front of me. I could see the big shows all at the same time. But I could also see what people were doing in their neighborhoods. From the ground, Bridge Street is far far away more impressive than anything going on in neighborhoods. From a distance, however, the neighborhood displays meld together into something amazing. But, most importantly, the distinction fades away. The big corporate displays and the individuals firing off their store-bought goods become not different things, but all part of one thing, all part of the city being alive with light and sound. Not piecemeal parts, but one wholecloth tapestry.

I suspect that’s the difference between how we look at things in our lives, and how God does. We see separate, isolated events and factors, and try to make sense of them individually. God sees the wholecloth, and sees the beauty of how things fit together in a way we can’t understand. And continuously works the loom as we live our lives and make mistakes and threads slip out of place to constantly keep that tapestry beautiful in a way that only He can see.

If the lesson of last year was to see the tapestry, the lesson of this year was a good reminder also — don’t miss the trees for the forest.

It can be good to see the big picture, but there’s beauty in the on-the-ground-experience as well.