I sit on the balcony of my Kananaskis hotel room sipping a warm mug of tea. The air is slightly cool so I wrap up in a blanket and sit, taking in the sights and sounds of nature. The crisp mountain air is slightly tainted with the smell of pot wafting over from another balcony. Thankfully it dissipates quickly. Buzzing and chirping accompany the Pavarotti album we have playing in the background. And I am surrounded by beauty and calm.
Why is it that God seems closer in nature? The beauty elevates my soul and causes me to praise God for his lush creation. It’s a bit like a teaser, something that nudges me in the direction of God, but leaves things tantalizingly blurry. It leaves my deepest questions unanswered. My greatest problems unsolved.
The Lure of the Obscure
And yet, there is a pull to obscure revelation. God’s beauty reflected in creation is delightful. It points me to something mystical and supernatural. Something that transcends my understanding. How often we prefer to stop here. To have a taste of divine beauty, but go no further. Because further brings constraints to my autonomy. Much is left unsaid that I am left to interpret in a way that feels therapeutically satisfying.
The Lure of Significance
A mystic flavor seems to be rising in popular Christianity. Authors such as Kathleen Norris present an appealing sacramentalism where mundane and ordinary provide channels of special communion with God. But I think this mysticism appeals to us so much because a large percentage of our time is spent on insignificant tasks such as housework and we long to feel significance. If we meet God in the reflection in the salad bowl or the rainbow in the dishwater suds then we find purpose and meaning in the mundane. Perhaps some of this is helpful, but I find it tends to cause confusion. It often creates an insider and outsider mentality that is simply not there in God’s revealed word. In the Bible we do not find a secret mysterious key to communion with God that some uncover and others do not. Instead we find a free and open call for all to commune with God through his son, Jesus Christ. All who have found salvation in Christ have equal access to God.
The Clarity of God’s Word
The Clarity of God’s Word
Nature lovers and mystics are correct in pointing us the revelation of God in nature. His “eternal power and divine nature” are clearly seen in creation. (Rom. 1:20). And God also reveals himself to us in the ordinary. Our lives are checkered with tokens of grace and God’s providence. But we are depriving ourselves of vital information if we neglect God’s revelation of himself though words.
These words bring clarity. They record how God has worked in his people throughout history. They reveal God’s will. They tell us of his Son who is the fullest revelation of God. After all Jesus is the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” (Heb. 1:3)
In God’s word the reality of my sin contrasts the perfect holiness of this God of beauty. I discover my utter helplessness to save myself and Christ’s plan of salvation to reconcile me to himself. Sometimes I don’t like what I read. Often the truth wounds before it heals. And we like to avoid the wounding. We want wholeness and maturity without the pain that brings us there. We long to feel enlightened and purposeful without accountability. In short, reading the bible interprets reality for us when we would prefer to interpret it ourselves. We prefer to create realities that flatter ourselves.
So I look at the vibrant green leaves rustling in the wind. I hear the robins lovely song. I’m in awe of the majestic mountains and calmed cohesive beauty of God’s creation. But I don’t need to find a mystical way into God’s presence. I’ve entered by the narrow gate. Christ’s blood was shed for my sin and it no longer stands between us. I glance up at the clouds far above and remember that the clouds do not separate me from Him. He indwells me by his Spirit--even now--and I am free to commune with him. Ignorance may be bliss, but the truth sets us free. (Jn. 8:32)