When we lived near Paris in the late 1980’s, Murf and I made the obligatory pilgrimage to the Louvre Museum to see the Mona Lisa – I’m not really an “art guy,” but I didn’t want to be the only person to live in Paris who failed to see it. Yes, I succumbed to peer pressure – sue me.
As is true with any beautiful work of art, the Mona Lisa reveals truth in two directions. It tells you about the woman who posed for Leonardo da Vinci in 1503 in Florence, Italy (thank you, Wikipedia!). But it also tells you about Leonardo himself – his use of color, his appreciation of light, the fine brush strokes that act as his fingerprints on the canvas. It’s widely acknowledged that the masterpiece praises the artist, and reveals truth about him.
The world is God’s masterpiece, and like any work of art, it reveals truth about Him. King David knew this: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). Paul followed David down the same path: “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20).
The problem is, we human beings have given that world a makeover. Today, it’s easy for those of us who live in the cities or the suburbs to spend most of our lives walking on, living in, and surrounded by man-made objects and materials. Tall buildings block our view of the beautiful hills that surround us. Light pollution hides the stars at night. Interstate highways slice through hillsides so that our cars can barrel along at speeds too high to allow us to notice the scenery. We are poorer for it, because all of this deprives us of the opportunity for God’s creation to do what it was designed to do – point us to Him.
Over a year ago, I made a commitment to restore creation to its proper role in my life. When I chose to become a diligent pursuer of Sabbath rest, I made an intentional decision to seek out places where God’s handiwork would point me to Him. I knew I would be glad for this change, but I admit that I’m surprised at how much it has meant to me. I’ve hiked in rolling hills along the California coast with an unforgettable view of the ocean. I’ve strolled through stands of towering pine trees in the mountains around Los Angeles. I’ve stumbled upon a breath-taking mile-long oak forest just miles from my front door.
I have turned all of these beautiful trails into outdoor cathedrals. No, that’s probably not right. They have been places of worship all along – I simply discovered them, cooperated with them, and allowed them to point me to their Creator and usher me into His presence.
Can I invite you to join me? If you live near some beautiful scenery, pursue it. Assume that it was made for a reason, then go there and discover what it is. If distance or health limitations hinder you, just bring some flowers into your house and contemplate their beauty, and the beauty of the One who designed them.
And can I also invite you to consider Creation Care as a spiritual discipline? As those who best understand why the world was made, Christians should be the first to value it and care for it. I’ve tried to make it a habit to bring out at least one piece of litter from each of my hiking locations, and have done my best to apply the principle that I learned as a young hiker: “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.” My Sabbath hikes have made me more conscious of the fragile beauty that surrounds us, and more appreciative of those who work hard to preserve it, even when our motivations are different.
The masterpiece praises the artist. The world declares the glory of God. In order for that to matter to us, we need to stop and look. So stop. And look. Allow His artwork to accomplish the task for which it was created. Your picture of God will never be the same!