Saturday, September 19, 2009
Observations on the Inaccessability of Natural Revelation
Over the last 10 years the accessibility of natural revelation to my mind and heart has grown. I have spent numerous hours alone contemplating the mysteries of life and God as revealed through His creation. Some of my thoughts are archived here. Other meditations are scattered throughout my blog posts. Sometimes these illustrations of truth are discoveries from animals, others from natural wonders like the beach.
Tonight I sat in the dark outside in our smallish yard - I say smallish, because some of you are country dwellers, and our 1/4 of an acre is small to you. Some of you are city dwellers, and our 1/4 of an acre looks like a park to you. As I contemplated the fence around our property, and the house I live in I wondered why these things do not speak to me as potently as a tree, the wind, a rock, or water.
Humanity carries the seed of divinity. We are an imago dei. So it would seem that things we create must at least carry some semblance of divine value as well. If it true that those things God creates carry a value of wisdom, truth, and divine representation, then why shouldn't it also be true that the things we create would carry some inspired value of divinity as well.
My fence surrounding my yard speaks some very clear values of ownership, and protection. My house declares protection as well, and the fact that we speak of "house" and "home" as terms with significantly different values communicates a potentially deeper truth to be found in meditating upon house and home.
These values of fence and house are clear, and more accessible than that of rock and sky. Yet I do not feel the spiritual power of my fence, as feel the sometimes indefinable spiritual significance of the stars, and the ocean - whose tides rise and fall.
Looking at the parables of Jesus, and other illustrations of natural revelation throughout the Bible I see a common factor - though not perhaps a universal one. Most of the illustrations occur in stories which involve direct intimate human interaction with nature.
Jesus' parables describe the activity of planting seeds, drinking water, and harvesting crops. These describe moments when humanity and nature meet, because people involve themselves directly with an experience with natural elements. The revelatory dynamic of the natural element becomes accessible through working with it by planting, drinking, or feeling the wind rush across one's face. In some cases the interaction involves a more complex factor like bio-engineering, such as when Paul and Jesus describe the grafting of the branch onto the vine or the olive tree.
The fence speaks of protection and we know it tells that story, because we built it for that reason. The seeds growing from the ground are a less accessible illustration, because although we are involved in planting them, we are still surprised by the miracle of the growth which occurs. So we find Jesus having to define the parable for his confused disciples.
Jesus in His deep understanding of God, wisdom, and truth quickly accesses the values which nature presents, and defines their truth to us. Others in human history have discovered those values as well. Abraham experienced the prophetic voice of God while viewing the night sky. David, like most of us, appears to have accessed the truth values by working with nature. So he found illustrations of life and truth while working as a shepherd.
My house and my fence carry a value of truth which is a second generation removed from direct divine revelation. They are created by those of us who are made in the image of God, but because we become involved in the process of building and caring for it the truth values are immediately accessible. Today pastors give sermon illustrations about computers, and ipods because we are intimately familiar with those things.
The first generation of revelation often remains a little more distant from us. It is far more difficult to discover the hints of truth and life found in a tree, a stone, or the throbbing tides, but this first generation of natural revelation carries such a deep value that we often simply feel it. Something mystical and meaningful breaks upon our souls with emotion when we stand on the beach, but it does not often break into our minds with the values our with which souls are indefinably pregnant.
Perhaps it is the art of meditation, which carries us deeper, like Brother Lawrence who experienced God afresh in the wintered deciduous tree, or Saint Francis who actively contemplated and described the wonders of God in nature. Are we are in need of spending time with God in His nature before the hidden values of its glory breaks upon us with more than a inaccessible feeling, and begins to speak life changing values to our minds?
The second generation values will continue to encourage our hearts in stories from fences, houses, computers, and cell phones; but the first generation of deeper values requires from us a little more work. I think that work is worth the effort.