The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. Psalm 19:1-2
In our synthetic, walled-in, air-conditioned existence, where can we find the things of creation? We enter our office complexes, hunker down in cubicles lit by fluorescent lights, buy lunch two floors down in the cafeteria, take our kids to indoor playgrounds. For safety or convenience reasons, we even exercise indoors. When do we lift up our eyes to the hills if all we’re doing is lifting our eyes to websites and stoplights? When can we consider the lilies of the field if all we do is breeze past them on the interstate?
If our only exposure to the outdoors occurs during a brisk walk across the asphalt parking lot of Target, something is missing. Growth in our relationship with our Creator will be stunted, as we miss out on observing, valuing, and attempting to understand what is precious to Him.
When will we celebrate God’s creativity and hear what He wants to say through His creation? What will it take to realize we are entirely dependent upon Him and His natural world to survive? “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17).
The false sense of security provided by supermarkets and convenience stores sometimes keeps me from fully appreciating that I am sustained by Jesus’ powerful Word, and that in Him all things hold together. Whether or not we realize it, we are just as dependent upon God’s control of the natural world as people in Third World countries who may starve if a flood destroys their one field of crops.
Caroline Falconi, my sister-in-law, works as a program evaluator for organizations such as World Vision. She travels the world to discuss with the poor the challenges and problems they face. Several years ago as we were talking about the people she has met, I asked her about the Christians she’s met among the poor. Caroline told me she had noticed that the people who seemed to have the most intimate relationships with the Lord were those most intimate with the earth. “Each seed represents a possible future, so there’s this look on their faces when they plant and look at the rain.” She paused with a smile, seeming to recall that “look,” then continued. “They’re hopeful. They are utterly dependent upon the Lord for survival. If it doesn’t rain, their crops die. In many ways they have a much deeper faith than most North American Christians I’ve known.”
As one of those “North American Christians,” this stuck with me. Caroline wasn’t challenging me or trying to make me feel bad. She was responding to my questions honestly.
Her comment made me look at my life. Was I so protected from the elements that I lacked something in my faith? Was I anywhere near as intimate with Christ as the poor whom Caroline knew so well? Would getting in tune with the natural world help me know Him better? Did I need to dig in the dirt?
Just because most of us don’t have to till soil, plant wheat, and wait months before reaping the grain to make our bread doesn’t mean we aren’t dependent upon the Lord for it. But because I don’t personally appreciate the precarious weeks of no rain, the tedium of waiting, and the concern that if this crop doesn’t make it there won’t be any bread at all, I wonder if I am as grateful for my daily bread as I should be. Instead, like many, I just pick up a loaf at the 7-Eleven when I pay for my gas.
The Lessons of Nature
How do we live with growing appreciation and gratitude for Christ’s sustenance through the natural world? How do we experience God through intimate knowledge of His creation? We can start simply. Nurture some plants, tune in to the rustle of leaves. Watch the sunset tonight as the sky streaks rose and orange. Gaze at the moon. Listen for the first true night sound.
Tomorrow morning step outside and look to the upper branches of the silver maple tree growing in your backyard and read Sgt. Joyce Kilmer’s poem:
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
Long before Sgt. Kilmer, another poet noted the power of observing God’s creation:
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth by glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it;?let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the LORD, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. (Psalm 96:11-13)
A Primer on God’s Character
Before we can join the rest of creation in singing praises to our God, we’ve got to get out into it! It shouldn’t be that unnatural. The human race was designed to live in a perfect garden with no other shelter than what God provided in the natural world. God allowed Adam and Eve to tend the garden and draw nourishment and enjoyment from it. Something in us today should be able to relate to that. In fact, how would mankind and nature relate today had sin not entered the picture? We get a glimpse of how life might have been in Isaiah’s prophecy of Christ’s kingdom still to come — a kingdom restored to God’s original vision, where the wolf will lie down with the lamb, the leopard with the kid, and the young lion with the calf, all in harmony (cf. Isaiah 11, NASB).
For the time being, there may not be perfect harmony in nature, but there is still beauty, power — and a message. “[W]hat may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20). A person who has never heard of God can’t excuse herself, feigning ignorance, because God reveals His eternal power and divinity through creation.
If God is revealing Himself to us through creation, we should listen! We should spend time with His creation and pay more careful attention. Observe. Make notes. Draw your own conclusions. Write your own psalm of praise based on what you observe as you sit before a stream, marveling at the minnows or laughing at the water bugs skimming across the surface. What connections might be made to the story of Christ walking on water? What of God’s creativity could be appreciated? What does He have to say to you? You will find out only when you step outside and go for a walk. Sit quietly. Watch. Sketch, perhaps. Wonder.
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Source: By Faith Online