A friend and I were talking the other day about Colorado. The conversation made me giddy because mountains might be my happiest place. I love hikes on trails that wind up toward far-flung views, so our trip to Westcliffe last summer was the stuff of dreams.
I remember waking at six one morning, pouring coffee into a clay mug, wrapping myself in a blanket, and opening to the Psalms. The cabin’s window offered a NatGeo view. My head bobbed between Psalm 18 and the rugged Sangre de Cristo peaks.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge… (Ps. 18:2).
Friday morning found me shouldering my backpack and standing on the deck for a last long look. Jupiter hung low over Comanche Peak. Daybreak colored the east and slowly warmed the mountains in the west. I just stood there in my braids and Birkenstocks, breathing it in.
It’s strange, but I was ready to go. I was ready for my mountainless home. Because while Colorado is a place I love, Missouri is the place I know.
Here, I wake to an orange sun filtering through pin oaks. I pour coffee, wrap in a blanket, open to the Psalms, and look up. The beauty is there, but it doesn’t smack me across the face. I have to squint to find it.
Familiarity doesn’t make the marvels less marvelous— it just dulls my senses.
I’ve looked out to that skyline for eighteen years. I’ve watched nearly two decades of moons climb over those cedars. I’ve witnessed 6,260 sunsets.
I don’t want the familiarity to blind me. I want to see the beautiful world God placed me in and I want to worship him for it. Because “the whole earth is full of his glory” (Is. 6:3b, emphasis added).
See the world God created.
Familiarity is a cataract that can blur how we view the world. And when we don’t see and savor the beauties God created, we won’t see and savor the beauty of God.
Creation isn’t a hint at God’s existence. It’s irrefutable proof. To walk blindly through the world is to risk suppressing the truth about our Creator God.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
The world is a witness to God’s existence, transcendence, and faithful sustenance.
Yet he did not leave himself without a witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness (Acts 14:17).
Don’t let the familiarity of your surroundings callous you to their beauty, or to the beauty of their Creator.
Then let your sightings spill in worship to God.
Let seeing lead to worshipping God.
Seeing creation isn’t where the adventure ends. The goal is to glorify God.
This sets us apart. Unbelievers can see nature and even savor it, but creation can’t lead them by the hand into the Creator’s courts.
Ralph Waldo Emerson—transcendentalist poet, philosopher, and essayist— was someone who stopped at the gates. He saw rivers and oaks and wheat fields in a way we don’t. But instead of recognizing God as transcendent over it all, Emerson looked within himself to worship a holy part of a holy universe.[i]
“Standing on the bare ground—my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space—all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God…”[ii]
Emerson’s eye for beauty fell short of an eternally beautiful objective.
Wendell Berry is a different poet—one who sees rivers and oaks and wheat fields as billboards for God’s transcendence. His eye for nature’s loveliness spills in these words:
is gray. It begins in mist
almost at the ground
and rises forever…
…Here is what will always
be. Even in me,
the Maker of all this
returns in rest, even
to the slightest of his works,
a yellow leaf slowly
falling, and is pleased.”[iii]
Do you sense the difference?
Where Emerson halted at the doorway of nature’s wonders, Berry steps across the threshold to bask in the Creator’s courts of praise.
That’s our calling.
Because attentiveness to the beauty permeating our planet is pointless if it doesn’t lift our eyes to God in humbled worship.
See the world right where you are.
You don’t have to visit Colorado or Banff or the Alps to relish God’s glories. Your home, in all its familiarity, is a jaw-dropping masterpiece. Look closely enough and you’ll find it teeming with loveliness.
But don’t stop at beholding. See the world, then see the Creator as more beautiful than you ever have before.
[ii] Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature
[iii] Wendell Berry, Given: Poems (Shoemaker Hoard Publishers: Emeryville, CA; 2005), 75, 76