Last night I had a chance to see U2 in concert at Nashville. Being a huge U2 fan I thoroughly enjoyed the show. In many ways, however, a U2 concert is more an experience than a show. There are many things I admire and appreciate about this band from Ireland. In both their songs and the messages that appear on a huge screen throughout the concert they give you much to think about.
At one point in last night’s concert the words “The more you see the less you know” appeared on the screen above me. At first I thought I had misread the words but when I looked again I realized I had read them correctly. My initial reaction was that I disagreed with this statement. I know far more than I would have otherwise due to all the things I have seen in my life. But as I continued to give some thought to the saying it occurred to me that there was definitely some truth in this maxim. In fact I decided it was akin to another truth I came to grasp in my long journey through college, graduate school and post graduate school—the more you learn the more you discover what you do not know.
I think both sayings pertain to seeing Creation. The more I learn about God’s wonderful Creation the more I discover how much I do not know. Likewise, the more I see of His handiwork, it makes me aware of how much I don’t know. In one way this is frustrating and humbling. In another way it is exhilarating and a challenge for me to learn more.
I am quite confident that God wants and expects for us to use the minds he has given us far more than we typically do. I have heard experts say that the typical person only uses about 15% of his or her mental capacity. We have the ability to understand, learn and experience far more than we presently do. Not only is this true; I would argue that our failure to learn more is a sin. In the “greatest commandment” Jesus said we are to love God with all of our mind, heart, soul and strength. We cannot fully love God unless our minds are engaged.
In God’s Creation there is so much to see and also much to learn. Recently I’ve had a couple of experiences with raccoons. A few days ago I got to photograph a baby raccoon that a wildlife rehabilitator friend is caring for. Then three nights ago I heard a loud noise on the deck outside my bedroom and when I explored the cause discovered that a huge raccoon was treating himself to the birdseed in my feeder. Seeing both of these creatures made me realize that I really don’t know a whole lot about raccoons. Seeing them has also made me wish to learn more about these “masked bandits.” So I guess the boys from Dublin are right; the more you see the less you know. This only makes me want to see more and to learn more. I think that’s the way God intended it.
“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace–only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” – Anne Lamott
This past weekend I had the privilege of going to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, to speak once again at the annual Wilderness Wildlife Week. This is an outstanding event held each January and if you are not familiar with it I’d encourage you to check it out sometime. While I was in Pigeon Forge I was able to drive into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park a couple of times to photograph. The fact that the park had received several inches of snow prior to my arrival made this an extra special adventure.
I love being able to get out in the woods after it has snowed, especially before a lot of other people get there and create a bunch of tracks. A snowy landscape is so beautiful and pristine. It is absolutely amazing how a heavy snow can transform a scene. Things that might have looked ugly or unattractive before become stunning in appearance. I thought about this yesterday as I was photographing in the Elkmont region of the park. I remembered, as I usually do when it snows, the Bible’s wonderful promise, “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18) This led me to think further on God’s grace. There are so many things about snow that remind me of His grace.
On U2’s album “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” there is a song called “Grace.” In the final line of this song Bono sings, “Grace makes beauty out of ugly things.” God’s grace, like snow, makes beauty out of ugly things. I know that for a fact. I’ve seen it in my own life and I’ve seen it in the lives of countless others. Like gently falling snow God’s grace covers all those who are open to receiving it. As it blankets us we find ourselves changed. We look different. We feel different. We are different. Through God’s grace our sins are “covered.” What was dirty is made clean. What was ugly is made beautiful.
Today I find myself very grateful for snow and for God’s amazing grace. I hope you do too.
(I took both of these pictures yesterday in the Elkmont area of the Great Smoky Mountains N.P.)
On U2’s album “All You Can’t Leave Behind” there is a song called Walk On. In this song Bono sings about “a place that has to be believed to be seen.” Some might think this is just a clever turn on the more usual phrase, “I’ll have to see it to believe it” but actually U2’s song touches on a very important truth. Some things really do have to be believed in before they can be seen. This is especially true in the spiritual realm, but it is my conviction that it is also true in the physical realm. Seeing God in Creation requires such believing.
The story is told that after WWII these words were found etched on the walls of a Jewish concentration camp: “I believe in the sun when it’s not shining, I believe in love when I feel it not, I believe in God when He is silent.” These words remind us that we don’t always have to see or feel something in order to believe in its presence. They also remind me of the biblical definition of faith found in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
The writer of Hebrews goes on to say, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” (v. 3) The affirmation that God is the “Maker of heaven and earth” is a faith statement. It is not something that can be proved using the scientific method. Instead it is something I trust to be true.
It is this believing that enables me to see God in that which He has made. It is this believing that opens my eyes to the wonder and majesty of the Creator found throughout His Creation. Some fail to see God in Creation because they think they must see Him there before they will believe. What they don’t understand is that Bono is right. Some things have to be believed in order to be seen.
(The image above was taken at Rowdy Lake in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.)