Sketches of the Great Artist: “Awe and Wonder”

“Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God and to fully enjoy Him forever.” – Westminster Larger Catechism

On a clear day outside of Springerville, where the rolling white hills sprawl endlessly, my rattled Buick crawls intently along the unpaved road with an unsteady determination. I’m drinking cherry Dr. Pepper and cracking ranch-flavored sunflower seed-shells. The ocean-blue sky is intermingled with the off-white of loitering clouds. This is a holy moment ready to happen.

I pull off the road to park and get out. The engine sputters to silence. The soundlessness becomes full instead of empty. I stuff my mouth full of sunflower seeds and step toward the mountain.

And it’s these ordinary moments in which God is found. The eternal God is located in the present; here, now. We find Him where we happen to be – not where we wish we were. We don’t find Him in an imaginary future. We will find Him in the future, but only as we experience it when it becomes the present. He has been in our past, but the past is gone. He is to be found there no more. If He were to be found there, we could live mentally in past glories while today slips away. He was in the past, He will be in the future, but He is here in the present and we experienced Him in the past and will experience Him in the future only as they both were and will be our present. All times are present to Him.

The grass-scented wind drenches me dryly. The feel of earth under my shoes is all I need right now. Each step brings me closer to this enormous, immovable rock-giant. There is a distinct ominous quality about this mountain. The quietude between the wide-spread fingers of the hissing wind is downright eerie. Even though this landscape has been sculpted by rain, snow, heat and time; it seems ancient. It has secrets to offer. I begin the ascent.

Finding these moments and these places are more than ascertaining geographical location and the mathematics of pinpointing the sun’s angle. It may be here today because my heart is ready for it and my eyes are open. If I come here tomorrow expecting the same experience, I might be disappointed – or I might not. You never know until you set out. Some days the sky is just sky, the ground is just ground and this rock is just a big rock. But today it declared the glory of God and it reflects His creative majesty. There are no words for it and yet it must be expressed. There is no one detail that is the key; it is somehow everything in harmony. The sun glinting off distant snowcaps. The jagged cliffs starkly lurching outward. The wind unfiltered by tree or structure, immersing me in air. The song in my head recalling deep memories of joy, longing, desire. And the same ache of joy emerging dramatically and suddenly. Like Jacob, I find myself calling this the Gate of Heaven. You were here all along and I didn’t see it! Hair on the back of the neck stands at attention. There is more here than sky, earth, wind, song. The moment of faith happens when talk of Him turns to addressing Thou. Speaking to instead of speaking about. Expressing to You what I was just thinking about to myself, as if You were not listening all along!

The moment of faith is worship and prayer. When the rain-sculpted hills no longer stare blankly but wake up and rejoice. As the cars drive by like ants on the highway below, inaudibly. Hundreds of unconnected lives, going different places, listening to different radio stations, thinking a million different thoughts. Perhaps other prayers escaping through air-vents and buzzing past me?

Since that fateful day so long ago when Petrarch climbed a mountain just for the sake of doing so, the fad has caught on. Why did You make creation so glorious and beautiful? Why did you fashion this mountain and meadow in such a way that the heart breaks, the eyes water, the time of day and date on the calendar dissolve into eternity? Why not just one color? Why not a world of flat land only? Why not only one kind of tree? Why this considerable variety? Why such exquisite artistry? I know I’m not the first or the last to experience this…David gives voice to it again and again in his psalms.

Psalm 19:1-4
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

Psalm 8:1,3-4
O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens…
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?

Why has He made it with such jaw-dropping complexity and exquisite artistry?
Holy Awe.

Awe is something we are largely missing in Christianity today. We want utility; usefulness. We want to be “used” of God. We want to be productive. We don’t want to waste time with anything that doesn’t seem to be industrious. Why just sit and gape? Why just admire beauty and stare in wonder? Why waste the time when there is so much work to be done? Martha accuses Mary of being lazy and unproductive. Mary has chosen the one thing needful.

There is no true worship without awe. There is no experience of grace without wonder. The splendor and beauty of God must be experienced and expressed. And even these grand, sprawling landscapes are but artistic echoes of the Glorious One. We as Christians should be people of awe and wonder. We should seek to stir up awe and wonder, because these qualities point to the createdness of the cosmos.

And before we find out anything in the Bible about God, the first thing He reveals to us in His Word is that He is a Great Artist. (Genesis 1)

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~ by shardsofeternity on March 25, 2010.

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