BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church
One chilly evening recently I pulled my chair up close to a wood stove and started feeding logs into the intense flames. As the painful discomfort in my frozen extremities was quickly dissipated and replaced by the almost equal pain caused by the heat from the stove, I backed away from the open door and found the perfect distance to achieve the consummate state of coziness. I sat there for over an hour, watching the dry wood being rapidly consumed by the fire, mesmerized by the destructive power of the flames.
Eventually, as the fire died down and the warmth and comfort made me sleepy, I began playfully poking at the pile of red-hot coals. I became fascinated by these chunks of charred wood – as waves of heat coursed through them, they glowed and undulated with brilliant colors of red, yellow, and orange. They became almost translucent at times, and their edges would sometimes sparkle with miniature flames. I was stunned by the beauty and mystery of what I was witnessing.
Every day we step on, walk by, and sit in the midst of thousands of reflections of the glory of the Creator, and we rarely notice them. I’ve always felt that the cliché “familiarity breeds contempt” is, in most cases, an overstatement – what familiarity most often creates is apathy. Regarding God’s creation, we take for granted and become blind to that which is common, no matter how spectacular its beauty may be. The blue jays and cardinals that sit on the feeder at my window would be considered exotic in many parts of the world, but here they’re just part of the scenery.
The dulling effect of familiarity has been augmented in our era by the remarkable advances in scientific study. The pursuit of scientific knowledge is good, but when we remove the mystery from our understanding of God’s creation we tend to lose our sense of wonder. Just because we can explain the processes involved with a burning log, a thinking brain, or a growing flower, that doesn’t lessen the glory of the Creator revealed in them; in fact, our increased understanding should deepen our amazement. It is only our sin that keeps science classes from breaking out into praise and worship services.
In the beginning of chapter 18 of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus told us that we must become like children in order to enter and thrive in His Kingdom. There are so many aspects of a child’s attitude that He could be alluding to – He especially mentions humility, and also implies that their willingness to trust is to be emulated. Another admirable aspect of a childlike heart is their relatively uncorrupted sensitivity to the wonders of God’s creation. The joy of discovery and experience of being in awe is a daily reality for young children. One of the greatest tragedies of the aging process is the onset of apathy and cynicism.
The soul-deadening effect of repeated exposure to and experience of God’s glory in creation is a result of sin’s entrance into the creation. G.K. Chesterton once wrote in his book Orthodoxy, “[Children] always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not 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.” I pray that God will reverse the mental and emotional aging process in me and restore to me a child’s eyes for seeing His glory in the mundane.
Seeing God’s glory is the most passionate desire of the heart that’s been born again by God’s grace. That glory is most clearly seen in His Word, where we see Jesus Christ, “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3). But there are also innumerable reflections of His glory all around us, every moment of every day. We just need to stop rushing around and pray that the Lord will open the eyes of our hearts so that we can see what is so obvious to a child-like heart.