The Universe Cries Out
“The joy is in the journey.” I never understood that statement. For me, joy is getting to the destination, to finally being “done”. “Once I get to the destination,” I would tell myself, “I can finally rest.”
That’s a great thought. That one point to finally sit back and rest. However, there always seems to be one more thing on the other side of the destination. Just like getting to the top of a mountain and seeing multiple mountains before you, there’s always something on the horizon. Rest never materializes. Joy never comes because Joy isn’t found at the destination, it’s found in the journey.
I still struggle with the thought that joy is in the journey. I’m discovering that my attitude causes me to miss…joy. For example:
Getting on an airplane and flying is the quickest way to a destination. When I fly I like the window seat so I can try to guess the state I’m flying over. I’m not sure how many states I’ve flown over in my lifetime. I’ve flown to El Paso, Denver, New York, Orlando, Atlanta, and Seatle, so I’ve been over a lot of states, but I didn’t know what they were really like. I never experienced them.
During my sabbatical, I wanted to connect with God through nature. So, I rethought how I would travel. Flying could get me to where I was going faster, but I would miss a lot of nature. I would miss the beauty each state had to offer and how God formed the beauty of the region.
So I drove a lot. On the first trip west, my friend and I drove almost five thousand miles to Wyoming and then Arizona. We made stops along the way and were generous in taking detours that weren’t on our route. Later, I made a second trip west to New Mexico, driving around three thousand miles. Spending time in the car, gazing out the window, and trying to slow down, brought a perspective and joy that flying never did! It was amazing seeing the topography of the different states and how quickly the topography changed.
I was able to see beautiful scenery driving through Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Missouri. There were times when the topography was flat and sparse and other times mountainous with various ranges on the horizon. I saw cows, sheep, buffalo, rabbits, armadillos (mostly dead on the road), prairie dogs, road runners, elk, and many different kinds of birds.
Along with experiencing nature while driving through the states, I also spent time in Scotland, which is beautiful as well! Scotland isn’t very big when compared to the United States. In fact, Scotland is smaller than Indiana. Yet, the east, north, south, and west coasts are vastly different. We would talk with locals who would describe their favorite places. As we traveled to Oban, hundreds of others traveled with us since they were having a four-day holiday. Oban seemed to be a favorite spot to vacation.
Not only was I able to look around at God’s handiwork, but I was also able to look up and see God’s amazing universe. The main reason I took the trip west was to see the stars with the least amount of light pollution possible. With dark skies, the stars and, especially, the milky way look amazing.
Even though I took my telescope, I found taking pictures was one of my main activities. I didn’t want to forget what I was seeing. I now have thousands of pictures of landscapes and skyscapes, all proclaiming the glory of God!
In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes:
“19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”Romans 1:19-20
Paul argues that God reveals himself through the earth and sky. All you have to do is look around and up to see God’s glory! While we don’t worship nature, nature does proclaim God’s glory and points beyond itself to God. When we recognize the purpose of the beauty all around us, nature can help us connect to God.
Throughout my life, I didn’t take time to look around or up. Nature never helped deepen my relationship with God. I had many excuses for why I didn’t spend time in nature. The lack of time was my main defense, but I’m not sure time was truly an issue. A more honest assessment was that I believed that I had better things to do.
With Netflix, Amazon, Kindles, books to read, sermons to write, things to attend to, etc., I didn’t have much motivation to see what God had done. The earth and sky have always been there. I would tell myself, “I can take a look later…after I reach my destination,” but as I wrote above, there was always another destination to reach. As one of my co-workers used to say, “There’s always something…”
As I thought about my sabbatical, taking inventory of my normal “rhythm of life” and how I wanted to change, I made sure to spend time reflecting on the beauty of God’s creation. When I finally did, God showed up! God revealed and reminded me of his glory! The Psalmist reminds us:
The heavens proclaim the glory of God.Psalm 19:1-4
The skies display his craftsmanship.
2 Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
3 They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.
4 Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
and their words to all the world.
“Nature calls,” we say (but for much different reasons). Perhaps a better statement is, “God calls through nature.” God calls you. God calls me.
Nature continues to proclaim God’s glory. How are you listening? How do you hear God’s call through nature?
What is your favorite place to go, when we seek to hear God through the beautiful world around us? What message might God be bringing to you, through the heavens, earth, and the beauty all around?