My earliest memory of intimacy with God is one of my clearest. I was 4 years old and at the time we were living on my grandparent’s land, close to London, Ontario. There was a field beside the house, lavish with Brown-eyed Susan’s. I wandered through the vivid yellow flowers with their warm brown centers. They stood more than waist-high in memory and I was encompassed by their long stems and by something much bigger than myself. I began to sing a favorite song from my mom’s record collection, ”It only takes a spark, to get a fire going, and soon all those around, can warm up to its glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it, you want to sing, it's fresh like spring, you want to pass it on.” God’s love permeated every ounce of my being as the glory of His creation sang to me. This moment, pure gold.
Several years later we were living on an acreage north of Spirit River, Alberta. A place so remote it took at least 30 minutes on the school bus to get to Rycroft, the even smaller town where I attended Junior High. This was a land so magnificent in its raw beauty that my parents bought the property at a time they couldn’t really afford it. Imagine deathly cold in the winter with long winding roads of sheer ice. Envision the sure softening into spring and then summer, wildflowers and forests, mud so thick I had to abandon my boot firmly ensconced in its grasp more than once. Many hours were spent walking the ridge of a small valley beside our home and this became my Garden of Eden during a weighty time for our family. My mom was struggling through a deep depression and my older sister was battling struggles that left my 12 year old heart thoroughly disconcerted. I cannot tell you what precise cries were uttered, or recall the sweet songs of praise that were sung, but I know the Creator met me in the quietly wide beauty of that landscape. I called out to the vastness and the Creator echoed back His song of love.
After studying under Terry Leblanc and Randy Woodley (Indigenous Christian theologians) this summer I’ve come to more fully appreciate that all of creation has something to teach us about the Creator. Scripture points to this from the very beginning, when “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31) Please don’t assume that I’m ignoring the fact that sin came into the world, and that humankind was cast out of the garden. Yet both scripture and my experience assert that in spite of the fall, creation is profoundly good because it was made by a good God! The writer of Psalm 148 incites creation to praise its Maker. “Praise him, sun and moon; praise him all you shining stars…you great sea creatures and ocean depths...wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds...young men and women, old men and children. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.”
Jesus also exhibited a close connection with creation. He walked on water and stilled a storm. He looked to flowers and birds as tangible examples of what it looks like to trust the Maker. He declared that even if people remain silent, the rocks themselves will cry out! (Luke 19:40)
As a young adult I drove the Alaska highway with my good friend Kate. It was an adventure I’ll never forget, a prolonged journey of breathtaking beauty. I have always loved Psalm 139 but this trip illuminated these verses in a special way for me: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” I have struggled my whole life to see myself the way God sees me. And although I loved these words I couldn’t really accept that I was a ‘wonderful work’ of the Creator. One evening after Kate and I had set up our little tent I was gazing at the majesty of the mountains, remembering all I had seen that day as we drove. I was simply in awe. God gently nudged me with the Psalmist’s truth: “You have no issue with calling this creation fearfully and wonderfully made, can you not see that YOU are my exquisite creation too?”
I’m thankful we had the opportunity this summer to camp in Cypress Hills Provincial Park. We had a lovely time: the sun was hot, the lake was cool, and the landscape praised the Creator. I had to walk a short downhill path from our campsite to the washroom. This trail was carved out by others who had passed through the long grass and weeds. It had at least 2 large holes in it and many unpleasant thistles that were not easy to avoid in the light of day. Needless to say, at night it was simply treacherous! Every day we had massive clear skies, and every night they were brilliant with incandescent stars. I would stumble out of our little Boler trailer and could only stagger back in astonishment as I tried to get my sandals on. But in order to get down that trail to the bathroom I had to examine the ground with great vigilance, hoping my little flashlight and sleepy eyes would not fail me. I wanted to look up, oh how I wanted to look up! But I also needed to make it to the washroom and back without injuring myself. I always took an extra awe-filled moment to focus my eyes upward before climbing back into the Boler and wondering how long it would take me to fall back asleep.
I’ve been thinking about that path. And I’ve been thinking about that sky. Sometimes we have problems right in front of us so treacherous we can’t seem to do anything but shine our little light and hope to avoid injury. But the stars are still there, in all their brilliance, whether or not we look upward. As I consider this I’m reminded that the Creator’s power is over all that’s going on, all the brokenness in my life and in this world. He sees, He watches over, and in the life of Jesus we see that He walks with us.
The long hot days of summer are precious and with autumn in the air I always feel a bit morose. This winter to come holds many unknowns, but it also holds some steadfast assurances.
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible...all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together...For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him and through him to reconcile to himself all things...” (excerpts from Col. 1:15-19)
Through Christ, the Creator is redeeming all of His creation. To me, this is uncommonly good news. May we allow all of God’s creation, with its sacred voice, to speak to us of who He is, in each and every season.
An old hymn says it better than I…
This is my Father’s world: The birds their carols raise, The morning light, the lily white, Declare their Maker’s praise. This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair; In the rustling grass I hear Him pass, He speaks to me everywhere.
This is my Father’s world: Oh, let me ne’er forget That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Father’s world, The battle is not done: Jesus who died shall be satisfied, And earth and Heav’n be one.