The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. ~ Psalm 19:1 (ESV)
Some of my favorite spots are in the midst of nature. One is the Current River in southern Missouri—a place where miles of protected land and waters meander through the hills and bluffs. Yes, especially on the weekends, it can be crowded and loud; but during a weekday away from a holiday there is serenity. I can kick back in a canoe or a kayak and be carried along under a blue sky pocked with cotton ball clouds. I used to no enjoy kayaking, they used to give me bad back aches, that is until I finally tried one of the top kayaks, quality here is felt in a huge way.
There is also a place, a state park, not far from where I live. When the weather is nice it is a getaway for me. I can go there to read, think, and pray with minimal disturbance as I sit at a picnic table and gaze over a field of prairie grass and wild flowers. I’ve also been to the bush of Zambia three times. It is a place away from the lights of a city. On a clear night you can stand outside, look up, and see thousands of stars against the black canvas.
I enjoy these places because they’re quiet escapes from the rings of the phone, the buzz of texts, and the dings of emails. More than that, they allow for an undistracted mind that can focus on the glory of God.
Carl Sagan, an atheist, once wrote while pondering the idea of alien life (I think it’s from his novel Contact, but I’m not 100% sure), “The universe is a pretty big place. If it’s just us, it seems like an awful waste of space.”
It’s only been in recent centuries that we’ve learned just how vast our universe is. Moving at the speed of light it would still take thousands of years to reach some of the stars that we see. We know the universe is filled with millions if not billions of galaxies and each galaxy contains millions if not billions of stars. We know there are stars burning, planets spinning, and nebulas forming that we can’t even hope to begin to see (at least in our lifetime).
It is big and it is vast, but instead of being an awful waste of space, God declares, “It is showing my glory.”
When you think about the world and the known universe; when you think about the cosmic variety found within the smallest bacteria to the most complex mammals; and when you ponder all the natural beauty of creation, it speaks to a God who fancies himself an artist—the best artist. He is not some utilitarian god interested in mere functionality; rather he paints pictures and tells stories on a vast canvas.
Our fall into sin in Genesis 3 and each choice to sin we make in our daily lives says: I doubt the goodness of the Artist and Author, I doubt the purpose of his story, and I want to write my own. But instead of doing something better, we trade the greater joys for temporary and passing pleasures.
In his essay The Weight of Glory C. S. Lewis said,
If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
Psalm 19 tells us that both creation and scripture speak about God. Whereas scripture is more sure (to borrow from 2 Peter 1) because it is God’s words about himself, creation still paints a picture of his glory, beauty, and majesty.
In the beginning God gave us creation to cultivate. We were to rule over it for our good and the good of others, and that meant we were to grow it, wisely use it, and enjoy it. In the beginning of eternity at the end of this age, the Bible tells us that creation will not be wiped out but remade. It is presently under a curse because of our sin, but Jesus breaks that curse and makes everything new. We don’t spend eternity floating around on clouds and strumming harps in an eternal song-sing; instead we worship God as we rule over creation with, for, and through Jesus—a return to Genesis 1 and 2 but carried out in perfection.
As followers of Jesus, creation is here for us to care for and wisely use today (as we seek its good and the good of our fellow men and women who share this world with us now and in the years to come). But it is also here for us to enjoy.
So let the mountains take your breath away, let the cool waters wash over you as you swim, stare up at the stars at night and wonder, and let your hearts and imaginations soar for the glory of God as you marvel his great handiwork.
 C. S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory” in The Weight of Glory (New York: Harper Collins, 2001), 26.
Image: A picture I took while hiking the Angels Landing trail at Zion National Park, Utah, in 2010.