THE WITNESS OF CREATION
Walking arm and arm along the canal pathway in Oxford the other night as I traveled to visit Sarah, we were casually chattering away when the sky burst forth with the more wondrous sunset, reflecting on the water in colors of fire, with the loveliest of birds singing as if in worship. It was a moment not to be ignored, an unavoidable flourish of the magnificence of God's presence with us. It was as though He was speaking, "I am here. I am with you. I am living. I care to bring you joy."
I have learned that one of my most important areas of stewardship for me to stay alive spiritually, is to cultivate a personal, inspirational, and intimate knowledge of God. In Romans 1:20, Paul told us that, "Since the creation of the world His [God's] invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made."
This means that through creation we can discover his invisible attributes: what God is like, his eternal power, the strength of his might from eternity past until eternity future, the very nature of his personality. His signature is on everything he has made! And he made all of these pleasures as a love gift to us that we might perceive him more clearly.
In other words, if I want to know what God is like—if I want to see a visible reflection of his nature—then one of the best and most complete teachers is nature, the platform of his original work
Through nature, we observe that ours is a God of variety. Think about the plethora of his creation. Countless colors, shapes, personalities, and sounds. Insects, fish, birds, puppies, hippos, and penguins. Textures soft, hard, rough, jagged. Temperatures icy cold and steaming hot. Designs of stripes, polka dots, circles, squares, rectangles. Dimensions immense and tiny, fragile and powerful. We can listen to sounds and learn that God is musical: birds chirping, bees buzzing, leaves chattering in the wind, cows mooing. He even had angels singing at his birth. We observe that he is orderly by looking at the design of a cell or noting the predictability of a sunrise and sunset or recognizing the constancy of the seasons. We observe his power through storms, waterfalls, and beasts.
My heart longs for a God who enters my world, my dreams, joys, pains, insecurities--but also one who is a kindred spirit with my joy in feasting with friends, hugging my sweet oldest child after being away for so long, the joy of seeing spring come after long cold winters, the depth of loving deeply or singing loudly or running in the cold morning air--a God who is alive in all of my worldly places as well as my spiritual thoughts.
God has inscribed a book about himself, and we can read it by paying attention to the things that are in our lives every day: our yards, the storms, the night sky, the sea. His imprint is everywhere.
The key to enjoying God in every moment of these daily pleasures is to open the eyes of my mind to see and to appreciate what he has given. A thankful heart galvanizes the connection between my God and me.
Recently, one of my sons returned home after spending a time in New York City. The typical preparations we make for a loved one's returning include drawing "I love you" signs and posting them all over the house and the front door, baking a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies, cleaning the house, lighting candles, putting on favorite music, and serving a feast of the returnee's choosing. Though my son had experienced these meals and celebrations so many times before, he cherished them all the more after having been away for a year. At the end of the evening, he said, "Mom, you can't imagine how thankful I am to be home and how blessed I am to have your great cooking again. Thanks so much for going to the trouble. I appreciated every moment of our time together tonight."
My pleasure in having worked so hard to welcome him increased immeasurably because of the appreciation he expressed. I felt closer to him, and because his love for me was more on a reciprocal level, we have experienced more mutual sharing and closeness as one adult to another instead of just the immature love he gave as a youngster. Now that he has grown up and doesn't take home for granted, he gives a worthier praise.
Similarly, when we really see that God is a wonderful Provider and has gone to great lengths to make our earthly home pleasurable, we will appreciate him more and our hearts will be lifted to thank him. It is when we come to see what he has given that we begin to be mature. It is when we understand that God's gifts are with consideration of our truest needs—for love, beauty, purpose, belonging—instead of for our selfish gratification, material possessions, ownership. When we are humble and appreciative of who he really is, then we move down the road to a more foundational intimacy with him. But without a heart of thanksgiving, in which we recognize his chosen gifts, our joy will not be full.