The Wonder We Once Had
Unearthing the World God Made
Article by Marshall Segal, Staff writer, desiringGod.org
When was the last time something God made stopped you with a deep, undeniable sense that he must be real?
Few of us pause nearly enough. Some have constructed whole lives that avoid the endless sermon God is preaching through creation. We walk through God’s world of miracles, literally or figuratively, with headphones in. We can’t be bothered with the natural any longer. We’ve moved on to cars, and smartphones, and podcasts, and YouTube. We’ve grown out of fascination and wonder, and then stored them as hand-me-downs for our children or grandchildren. As G.K. Chesterton writes,
Grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our father is younger than we. The repetition in nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be theatrical encore. (Orthodoxy, 58)
We know that the infinite, eternal God deeply enjoys what he has made (Genesis 1:31). But have we adults become bored, or distracted, or simply too busy?
Routines Without Wonder
Consider for a moment just how much of your day is hemmed in by what man has made.
From the bed you sleep on, in the house you live in, to the shower, to the breakfast table, to the car, to the desk and the office, to the phone, the computer, and the television. Apart from a brief walk to and from our cars (and that window down the hall), we can almost totally avoid the vast and breathtaking world we live in. We might begin assuming most of what we encounter in any given day, at least in urban contexts, could have been made without God.
But that tree in my front yard defies all human ingenuity and expertise. Who could make a tree like that? There’s absolutely nothing unusual or spectacular about our tree. Driving down our street, you would never notice it among many larger, more beautiful trees. And yet if you stop to look at it, really look at it, it is stunning, unexplainable, God-soaked. If we stop.
Missing the Forest and the Trees
God is revealed clearly everywhere in what he has made. The apostle Paul says, “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” (Romans 1:20). He is speaking about the ungodly and unrighteous, who are without excuse because they suppress what God is saying in night skies and stunning sunrises, in roaring seas and peaceful pastures, in mountain lions and anthills. So do we have an excuse?
Those of us who love the Bible, and we do love the Bible, can be prone to miss the other book God has written for us. Creation is not Scripture, and we should see everything in creation through the window of the infallible, inerrant, sufficient, glorious word of God.
But if we love the voice we hear in Scripture, we can learn to hear that same voice in trees, and turtles, and thunderstorms, and the two ducks that walked through the front yard this morning. If we love the God we read about in Exodus, Isaiah, Matthew, and Romans, we can come to see him in oceans, smell him in flowers, taste him in honey, feel him in the warmth of sunshine or under that first snowfall. If God is really speaking in the Bible, then he is speaking every bit as much and as loudly in creation, even if the language lacks the degree of precision we’ve learned to lean on.
The Key to Really Seeing
God dispatches us, through Romans 1, far and wide and deep into creation, with hearts sensitive to the vast and subtle messages in everything we see, smell, hear, taste, and touch. But Romans 1 also sounds a severe warning about all the beauty we discover. If we do not walk by faith through the world (Romans 1:17), then we may fall, to our destruction, in love for this world.
Human history tells the story of sinners who suppressed the truth and “exchanged the glory of the immortal God” — the glory that we see in all that he has made, including man and birds and animals and creeping things — “for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:23). And because they chose the beauty of the birds over the God who made the birds, they missed the true beauty, and song, of the birds. The glory they thought they saw was just an awful, God-belittling mirage of reality.
And misreading reality, they dove headlong into sin and wrath (Romans 1:24–25). But in Christ, we have been given new eyes for creation. “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). And as his light shines in us, through his word, that same light soon rises, like the sun, on all that he has made. “For the full and final purposes of creation to come to light, the things God has made must be considered through the eyes of faith in Jesus Christ” (T.M. Moore, Consider the Lilies, 89).
When We Look
“Until we see the beauty of Christ,” writes Steve DeWitt, “we will never see the true beauty in anything else” (Eyes Wide Open, 116). That means if we really want to hear what God is saying in the blues of bluebirds and waddle of penguins, in the raging of rivers and stillness of lakes, in the opening of lilies and landslides along cliffs, we first and forever fix our eyes on Jesus. We will never appreciate creation by looking away from him, but by looking through the one through whom the world was made (Hebrews 1:2). His beauty unleashes every other beauty, if we are willing to look.
As we look out, like I did last night, on another “normal” Tuesday’s night sky, King David’s awe and worship could increasingly become second nature.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3–4)
This kind of awe may require some intentionality and discipline at the outset, especially for those of us who have learned to avoid and ignore creation, but it requires less and less over time. Make no mistake, it will always take time — “When I look at your heavens” — but if we want to honor God, thank God, and enjoy God through creation, we won’t have to look hard to find him. He is, after all, displaying an eternal power, not a pedestrian power; a divine nature, not an above-average one.
Heaven Will Be an Earth
However, even if we struggle to see and enjoy God through his world here on earth, we will not in the new world to come. Heaven will unleash this kind of theology and experience. The created world will have been set free from its bondage to corruption, and we will be set free from all our blindness to God in creation.
When those endless days come, we will know something of what God felt when he “saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Any nervousness we once had about the idea of general revelation (some for good reason) will give way to centuries of discovery, of uncovering glimpses of God in everything, many of which were right before our eyes all along.
Until then, we practice hearing him in what he has made, as broken as it (and we!) may be. As Joe Rigney says, “God’s love for God led him to create the world from nothing. Therefore, our love for God, if it is to be an accurate reflection of God’s love, must also lead us to a deep and profound and fitting love for creation. God’s love for God pushes him into creation. So should ours” (The Things of Earth, 62). God made this world to give us more of what he loves the most: himself. Will we pause to enjoy him?
Marshall Segal (@marshallsegal) is a writer and managing editor at desiringGod.org. He’s the author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating. He graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Faye, have a son and live in Minneapolis.