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What Creation Teaches Us About the Creator

Published:
January 16, 2024
January 8, 2024
Read this article to find out how God's creation teaches us about Him and the beauty he works in our lives.

My breath catches in my chest as the valley opens up before my eyes. Tall towering California black oak, ponderosa pine, and white fir trees lose their race towards the sky to granite, mountainous formations. Layers upon layers of the most unique shapes stretch around the lush green valley. Wispy white lines of waterfalls in the distance place imaginary sounds of spray in my ears.

I am 16 years old and taking in the glory of Yosemite Valley for the first time. When I breathe again, it is deeper, more expansive; and I feel like my breath could reach out to the farthest pine tree. At this moment, I am the surest I have been in years about the existence of God — and the surest I will be for another decade. Experiencing the wonder of the valley unfolding for the first time feels like unfailing proof that we have a creative God who loves us. 

Fast forward and nature has been my default answer for most of my life when asked, “Where do you see God?” It is something that grounds me in a reality bigger than myself and provides a source of wonder and awe, like that day in Yosemite Valley. For most of my 20s, I continually sought those (literal) mountaintop moments as a potent way to feel God’s presence. I was not satisfied with a hike if it did not have a jaw-dropping vista or a stunning sunrise.

When the realities of the pandemic set in in early 2020, which for me and my husband included a newborn and my severe postpartum anxiety, I was no longer able to chase those mountaintop moments. Instead, I had to turn to the simple nature of our land to find God. It was not a practice I was used to, and as a result, I felt very distanced from God.

In an attempt to rekindle my faith, I attended a virtual retreat led by Laura Kelly Fanucci. It was based on the creation story in Genesis. Her reflections opened my eyes to another way to see God in creation: that the way the creation story is written, and how God created, can teach us a lot about the Creator. Taking inspiration from this, I have begun to look to the function and design of nature as a way that God reveals himself and his characteristics. 

Countless moments in nature can point us towards the truth about our loving Creator. Below you will find a few of my favorites. I invite you to practice curiosity and notice how the nature around you might guide you to a better understanding of God.

Tree communication and mysteries

Did you know that trees communicate with each other? They can send nutrients through their root networks to help a friend. Or a sick tree can release stress hormones to warn others of the plight, causing the healthy ones to strengthen their defenses. We are still learning so much about how trees care for each other and participate in the community of creation. God’s design of tree communities echoes the mystery of the Trinity. As trees pass resources, information, and protection among their roots and pheromones, God, Jesus, and Spirit move and collaborate in ways that we cannot see. Trees are always working for the good of each other and so are the members of the Trinity. Robin Wall Kimmerer in Braiding Sweetgrass captures this beautiful mystery: “The trees act not as individuals, but somehow as a collective. Exactly how they do this, we don’t yet know. But what we see is the power of unity. What happens to one happens to us all.” Both trees and the Trinity invite us into community, to think of the common good and see opportunities to care for others.

Floral wonder

Flowers have taught me so much about God. To me, tiny wildflowers show God’s delicate side, the side that delights in finesse and cuteness. The richness of multi-layer flowers — like dahlias and peonies, with dozens of petals per bloom — shows that God operates in an abundance mindset. The sheer magnitude of varieties: colors, shapes, sizes, occurrences, times of bloom, show me that God likes to have fun while creating. It shows me that creativity truly brings God joy — like it does so many of us.

Ebbs, flows, and constancy

Sister Moon ebbs and flows each month. Most female bodies follow suit. All of creation have cycles of their own: some monthly, some annually, some longer, some shorter. There is a profound rhythm written across nature. In some ways, the only constant is change. Yet, much of nature, especially the moon, comes back to a familiar place or pattern, cycle after cycle. God’s love can also feel cyclical; the ebbs and flows of closeness have resonated across time and saints. Though it may not seem it, God’s presence in our lives is constant as we ebb and flow. Again, the moon can teach us this: while we might not see her during the new moon, she is there, smiling down on us, allowing us to see new delights in the dark. 

A 4-part seasonality

One of the things that I love about living in the Mid-Atlantic is our experience of seasons. We enjoy each in its distinctness: winter, spring, summer, and autumn. I believe each season has its own way of reflecting our Creator to us. 

  • Winter: Much like the seventh day of Creation, winter is an invitation to rest. It shows us that God prioritizes times for dormancy and solitude. In some ways, most of Creation takes an extended Sabbath during the winter. 
  • Spring: Blooms emerging, buds popping, baby animals squinting — freshness abounds in the spring. Yet, each new life comes at its own distinct time: a crocus cannot bloom under the same conditions as a peony. Through this season of Creation, God can reveal that he has planned a unique timing in each of our lives. We are not meant to grow and produce fruit in the same manner as others around us. To me, that makes humanity beautiful too — someone is always resting, someone is always being born, someone is always blooming. 
  • Summer: Summer holds an interesting paradox to me: nature is overflowing with activity and yet there is a desire to linger. The long, warm days make me want to lounge with loved ones and appreciate the colors, growth, and abundance around me. Perhaps God feels this dichotomy with us as well: he wants to work for our good in our lives, and at the same time, simply wants to abide with us. 
  • Autumn: God moves and creates daily. While God operates on an unimaginable cosmic scale and outside of our notions of time, he also joins us in the daily movement of time. I see this in autumn. With the practice of observation, we can notice that the leaves change each day: slightly more color or a few more fallen to the ground. 

For these reasons and more, nature is a source of grounding and spiritual connection for me. It’s a place where I can feel a loving Creator’s creativity poured out in delight: delight in the creating, delight in the creation, and delight in revealing himself to us through both.

Creators:
Mary Beth Keenan
Published:
January 16, 2024
January 8, 2024
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