From a Distance??

From a Distance? No offense, Bette Midler. Really

Ask anyone who knows me well and they’ll tell you that somewhere close to the top of the list of the songs I really dislike the most is her 1990 hit song, “From a Distance.” I really have no problem with 95% of the lyrics of the song. It speaks of how beautiful the world looks from far away:

BlueMarble-468x468From a distance

The world looks blue and green

And the snowcapped mountains white

From a distance

The ocean meets the stream

And the eagle takes to flight

 From a distance

There is harmony

And it echoes through the land

It’s the voice of hope

It’s the voice of peace

It’s the voice of every man

From a distance


We all have enough

And no one is in need

And there are no guns, no bombs and no disease

No hungry mouths to feed

From a Distance…

Lovely, really. But then comes the chorus. And three-fourths of the way through it I still have no problem with the song:

God is watching us

God is watching us

God is watching us

But then—quite literally in my opinion–all hell breaks loose. Just after saying not once, not twice but THREE TIMES that God is watching us, she unfortunately, inaccurately and ignorantly sings that He watches us…from a distance.


Orthodox Christian truth has always been built on faith in a God who did not watch us from a distance. He didn’t even settle for watching us. He wanted to be so close to us that He became one of us. You would think that He couldn’t get any closer than that, but He did. He took on every sorrow and tragedy known to mankind, and even though he did not sin, He took on all of the effects of it, including death. Our faith is in a God who wants no distance between Him and us. In fact when I say “all hell breaks loose” that’s what I mean. We define Hell as the condition of a soul that wants nothing to do with God, but comes to know Him as the God who puts no distance between Him and us.

This Sunday (as we do every 2nd Sunday of Great Lent), we remember St. Gregory Palamas. He was a monk who lived about 800 years ago who taught many wonderful things, but all of them based on one important principle: God is not watching us from a distance. Not only does God draw near to us in the saving acts of Christ, but when we pray—really pray—God Himself interacts with us. The Grace He gives us is not some thing he sends us; it’s Him. He draws close to us Himself. Being with God renews us. Being with God revives us. Being with God enlivens and strengthens us.

This Lenten season is the time for repentance. It’s the time to become the people we were always meant to be. But it’s not a time of “self-improvement.” It’s a time to draw close to the God who draws close to us. So close that there is literally no distance between us. And if you ask me, THAT is something worth singing about.