But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the LORD has done this?
In his hand is the life of every creature
and the breath of every human being. (Job 12:7-10 TNIV)
We returned recently from a week in San Diego. Laura, Josh, and I spent the week checking out some of the town's most famous tourist attractions. We visited the San Diego Zoo and the Wild Animal Park. We got splashed by Shamu at Sea World. We went to Legoland. We toured the U.S.S. Midway.
On Sunday afternoon, after acknowledging our Creator in a man-made building, we sat on Coronado beach and marveled at his creation. The Pacific: steel-blue and stretching off into what seemed like infinity. Waves half-again as tall as me crashing into the shore. Majestic cliffs rising out of sandy beaches. The scope of it was awe-inspiring.
On another morning we visited a different beach, this one all rocks and cliffs. No sand. No real access to the ocean at all, unless a sheer drop counts as access. But we climbed down the rocks just a little and found tide pools left behind by the high tide. They teemed with life: small little flowery creatures that closed up tight when you ran your finger over them, miniature crabs brandishing their claws and hissing defiantly as they backed into crevices, sea snails, and who knows what else. Not as awe-inspiring at first glance as the beaches, maybe, but no less amazing testimony to our Creator.
I was amazed by the variety of living things at the Zoo and Wild Animal Park and Sea World. I was fascinated by some of their behaviors and the ways they seemed perfectly designed for the environments in which they lived. I know that some people look at that and see the machinery of evolution, but I found myself thinking of the One Who designed and created them.
One night, I think after our day at the tide pools and beaches, I prayed with Josh and we thanked God for his creation, and for letting us spend the day enjoying it. It was a heartfelt prayer, but something struck me the other night on final approach to Chicago. It was maybe the most important lesson we can learn from God's creation.
It struck me that I shouldn't have to go all the way across the country to notice and appreciate God's creation. The hills, canyons, cliffs and beaches of Southern California have given way again to the plains of Illinois, but it's still God's creation. The grass in my yard houses an ecosystem at least as vast as those tide pools. The squirrels and rabbits and crows and dogs and cats that populate my neighborhood are no less well-designed for their surroundings than the killer whales and crabs and California condors I spent the week appreciating. God's craftsmanship leaps out of the world in which I live day to day just as surely as it does from the world in which I vacationed.
So why is it that I spend so much of my life oblivious to the creation, and to what it tells me about its — and my — Creator?
The world in range of my senses right now speaks unequivocally of the glory and power and grace and kindness of God. The sparrows and grass, Jesus reminded us, are all the testimony we really need to the God who provides us with everything we need. But only if we have eyes to see it. "Earth's crammed with heaven," Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote, "and every common bush afire with God." But then she reminds us that "only he who sees takes off his shoes," while the rest of us go about the drab business of our ordinary little lives, oblivious to the myriad ways in which God speaks to us and touches us in the world around us. As Browning puts it, "the rest just pick blackberries."
I confess to being something of a blackberry-picker — going about business as usual, busily striving and never stopping to stand still and reverent and barefoot before the common bushes all around me blazing with the glory of God.
How can I see the world teeming with life without thinking of God's provision?
How can I see an immense blue sky and not praise his glory?
How can I watch my dog tear through the grass after a rabbit and not see the joy in the little things of my own life?
Worse, how can I see people around me as inconveniences or nuisances — or not see them at all — instead of seeing them as a reflection of the glory of God?
How can I walk past my son building with his Legos and not praise God for the intricacies of his growing mind and body, or hear his laughter without thanking God for blessing me through him?
How can I fail to appreciate my wife's beauty and charm, or resent her criticism instead of recognizing the ways in which God has used her influence to make me a better man?
It's ironic, isn't it, that we Christians can sometimes shout so loudly about how we believe that God created the heavens and earth and yet live lives that are so untouched by that reality? It's ironic that we would insist that the earth certainly is crammed with heaven, and that every common bush certainly is afire with God, and yet live life fully shod and always in search of more blackberries.
I got a chance to take off my shoes and drop the blackberry bucket last week. I pray that I will spend at least most of the rest of my life that way. Think you'd like to do the same? Start small: take a walk and ask God to give you eyes to see his glory around you; then thank him for what you see and learn along the way. Take some pictures of the world around you; then spend some time meditating prayerfully on them. Watch some Discovery channel, or Animal Planet, and marvel at what God has made. Visit a zoo or an aquarium, or sit in your yard and watch the squirrels play, and allow that time to lead you into the presence of God in whatever way it will.
I don't know that you'll have any great epiphanies. Most likely, you'll just hear what God has been trying to say to you in his still, small voice for a long time. But it's often in that still, small voice that God speaks his deepest, most significant mysteries.
Make sure not to miss it.