How often have you had the experience of stepping back from your busy life and finding yourself alone—on a beach, in the woods, even in a quiet moment in a park—and suddenly felt the nearness of God? It’s probably happened to us all: realizing in one moment of closeness how deeply we love our Creator—and how deeply we’re loved by him.
We forget, sometimes, the incarnational aspect of our religion. We are the children of a God who revealed himself fully by coming to earth as one of us. Jesus wrote letters in the dirt, changed water to wine, multiplied fish. Our faith is shot through with the brilliant light of a kingdom to which we aspire, and whose shadow is the beauty of the earth. We forget that truth, because we forget that God speaks to us in many different ways: through our hearts, through our minds…and through our senses, breathing the sea air, marveling at the shape of a cloud, feeling the texture of a tree’s bark.
And yet the scriptures are joyful about creation:
The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the works of his hands. Day unto day pours forth speech; night unto night whispers knowledge. There is no speech, no words; their voice is not heard.
A report goes forth through all the earth, their messages, to the ends of the world. He has pitched in them a tent for the sun; it comes forth like a bridegroom from his canopy, and like a hero joyfully runs its course.
From one end of the heavens it comes forth; its course runs through to the other; nothing escapes its heat.
The psalmist is telling us that the day’s speech and the night’s knowledge come to us silently—through the glory of God in nature. Imagine that! Seeing God’s hand and God’s love in everything around us!
The trouble is, of course, that we’re often unable to see it. We lead busy lives, and tend to relegate nature to two weeks of vacation in the summer, an occasional weekend outing, sometimes the appreciation of a beautiful sunset or rainbow or moonrise.
Or we may live in the canyons of concrete that are our cities. One of the sisters told me that when she lived in Chicago, her windows all looked out on—still other windows. By peering up through one of them, she was able to spot a small patch of sky. That was the extent of her contact with nature.
So we may choose not to immerse ourselves in nature, or we may have that choice made for us. How then can we connect with God’s fantastic gift to us? G.K. Chesterton talks about the lack of wonder in our lives; isn’t it absolutely marvelous, he asks, that God made grass green? It could have been any other color, but he chose green, and how perfect is that?
It’s a question worth contemplating, whether we start every day with a walk on the beach or a commute on the subway. How perfect are God’s choices for his creation, and how amazing is it that he gifted them all to us?
In his book Heavenly Participation, theologian Hans Boorsma tells us that until the late middle ages, people looked at the world as a mystery—in other words, as a sacramental link between creation and God, that creation participates in God. Some things must be experienced in order to become real for us, and God’s creation is no exception.
How can we participate?
We have an option for you. Starting in June, we’re offering an eight-week mini-retreat called Sacred Moments that will allow you to take a much-needed break from all the responsibilities and anxieties of your day-to-day life, and breathe in the beauty of nature, of God’s creation. We’ll share reflections and images, scripture readings and quotations, prayers and ideas to extend the retreat into your daily routines. Even if your only daily contact with nature is that small bit of blue glimpsed through an urban window, join us and be refreshed and renewed!
Click here to sign up for Sacred Moments: A Nature Mini-Retreat!