The Shadow of God

Anne Morrow Lindbergh once wrote, “I don’t see why I am always asking for private, individual, selfish miracles when every year there are miracles like white dogwoods.”  After spending quite a bit of time this past week photographing the white blossoms on the magnolia tree in our yard, I can see how Lindbergh wrote what she did.  The magnolia blossom is a wondrous delight to behold from a distance but an even greater joy to look at close up.  As I pointed my macro lens at a single blossom (all of the pictures shown here were taken of the same flower) I found myself amazed at its outstanding beauty.  In fact, I wondered how one tree could produce so many exquisite flowers.

I also have to admit that while photographing this blossom I sensed the presence of God.  Maybe it was the flower’s white color, symbolizing purity and holiness.  Maybe it was the cone’s golden color, representing royalty.  Or perhaps it was simply the overall beauty of the flower itself.  I am convinced that there is a connection between God and beauty.

I am certainly not the only one who has felt this connection.  Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God’s handwriting—a wayside sacrament.”  Gabriela Mistral said something similar; she said beauty “is the shadow of God on the universe.”  In the magnolia blossom it is easy to see God’s handwriting, not difficult at all to sense the shadow of God.

Long ago Confucius noted “Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.”  I suspect he is right.  Most people would likely acknowledge that magnolia flowers are beautiful, but I’m not sure they can know just how beautiful without doing what I did—getting close to them and carefully observing their features.   Even with magnolia blossoms it takes some effort and time to truly appreciate their beauty.  In other things their beauty might not be obvious at all, but if we will take the time to look closely at them and study their purpose, we will come to see the beauty that is inherent in each thing God has created.

No one ever said “seeing Creation” is easy work (at least, I don’t think they have).  It is instead a spiritual discipline that requires much effort and a good deal of time.  It is, however, worth the effort because it enables one to see the beauty that lies in everything.  It is worth the effort because it allows us to read God’s handwriting and sense His shadow on the universe.  I plan to keep working on seeing Creation and I hope you will as well.

–Chuck