Finding Grace in Nature

AZ-Canyon-de-Chelly-Spider-Rock-(v)There is a scene in the movie, “O God,” where God (played by the cigar smoking George Burns) sends a message to a televangelist and tells him that He’d prefer that he not try to speak for Him anymore.  I have a feeling that the real God would like to send that message to a lot of folks today.  Certainly not everyone who claims to speak for God actually does.  I was reminded of that yesterday when I read a message on Facebook by one of my favorite natural history writers, Craig Childs.  Craig, who has authored numerous award winning books, wrote: I was once in a church where they told me to shun the world of things, the world of decay and physicality. They said to think only of the immortal afterworld, a place I could not see or touch. Even then, I believed they were wrong. I was too in love with wind and rivers and rock.”

CO-Dallas-DivideI wrote a response back to Craig and told him that I was sorry that he had been exposed to such teaching in the church.  I explained to him that I believe the Bible teaches the importance of the earth and that I view it as a source of revelation of God. I mentioned Jesus’ injunction to “consider the lilies” and to “look at the birds.”  He wrote me back and told me that he knew most religions have “a fundamental reverence for nature” and that he believed there were a number of reasons why some people of faith have a sense of “aversion to the corporeal world.”  He then added this line: I imagine the dichotomy reflects the different kinds of people, those who dread this physical world, and those who find divine grace within it.” 

AZ-Glen-Canyon-NM-Horseshoe-Bend-(v)I suspect Craig is right.  Many people do, in fact, dread and/or fear the physical world.  Perhaps they had bad experiences in their childhood or were taught by grownups early on that there is much in nature that is dangerous and to be avoided.  Even worse, they may have been exposed, as was Craig,  to preaching or teaching in some church where the evilness of this physical world was stressed rather than its goodness and holiness.  They may have heard religious leaders declare that our focus should not be on things of this world but on the world to come.  Regardless of the reason for their fear or dread of nature it makes me sad that this is how they approach or see God’s Creation.  I cannot help but believe that their lives would be richer and their experience of God deeper if they could instead “find divine grace within it.” 

Ironically, the three things Childs said he loved—the wind and rivers and rock—were all things Jesus talked about and used to explain spiritual principles.  I get the impression that these were things that Jesus loved as well.  When Craig walked away from that church I suspect he made the better choice and found more grace than had he stayed.

–Chuck

(I took the three images above in the Colorado Plateau area, the region Craig Child writes so eloquently about.  The top one was taken at Canyon de Chelly National Monument, the middle one in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, and the bottom one near Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.)