Feel Free to Applaud Creation
JBU Professor Finds Extraordinary Wonder in Nature
By Tracy Balzer
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
When I was first getting to know my husband’s family, they invited me to join them for Sunday afternoon drives in the rugged Cascade Mountains of Washington.
During one outing we came upon a dramatic waterfall cascading through craggy rocks, and one of us spontaneously cheered in response. From then on, we all seemed to have a heightened awareness of the natural wonders around us: a snow-capped peak, a raging river, you name it, and those wonders would be echoed by more of our applause. Even now that our daughters are grown, our family still acts as if we’re seeing these wonders of nature for the first time.
When Kelsey returned from her semester abroad in Oxford her senior year, she said her friends there told her she clapped a lot, which made us laugh, knowing it was true of all of us. I imagined Kelsey clapping as she rambled through the English countryside or gaped at the glorious architecture of Christopher Wren.
I want my children, my students and myself, to feel comfortable applauding the wonders of our lives, to be listeners to that general revelation that is anything but general. Wonder-filled experiences alert us to transcendence, reminding us that God works creatively within us.
Mysterious objects in the sky have long fascinated humanity. One famous incident involved the “magi” of early Christianity. What were they wondering when they saw that extraordinary star in the east? Surely they experienced something numinous, an encounter with something charged with meaning and unlike anything they’d seen before. This star spoke to them. It had a message, and they listened. The heavens declared the glory of God, so powerfully that they knew they must follow the star. They believed God had put his star in the sky, and the magi responded, kneeling at the feet of the Christ Child.
The Psalm writer articulated this wonder long, long ago:
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
(Psalm 8:3-4, NIV)
Those who give attention to the wondrous share a kinship with the magi of old. An even greater kinship with the wondrous God of the universe awaits us.