Saturday, September 2, 2017

From My Nature Journal: Our Eclipse Adventure, Part 2 (With an Assist From St. Augustine)

All right, part two…

A multiple-image collage photo from my friend Lee in Kansas City
Last week when I wrote on our experience with The Great American Eclipse 2017 (leave it to Americans to name and market ‘their’ eclipse!), I realized by the end of my first page how long the piece might get. I mean, I was already up to seven hundred words and the eclipse was still hours off! Two single-spaced pages later, and by the time I was finished just telling about the experience, without even having taken opportunity yet to reflect on it, I could see the post was going to likely be the longest I’d ever put up. But the words had just kept flowing as I thought back on it. (If you didn’t see that post, hit this link.)

So it was about that time in my writing that I realized I wasn’t going to get everything I wanted to say into a single post. Yes, it’s MY blog and I can do anything I want! But it was just getting too long for comfortable reading. I felt I still had a lot to say, thus, today’s second installment…

Now, I don’t think the length was necessarily because I am longwinded. I DO try to be very intentional with my words (though I confess I can often end up preaching longer than I probably should). But it wasn’t longwindedness. I was caught up in something, something beautiful, a grand, even humbling, natural delight (not so different from preaching after all). I was swept up in the writing just as I had been swept up in the experience earlier that week, and the words flowed casually as I relived it.

But I stopped at that point last week, wanting to do some more thinking this week about just why it jazzed me so much, and that for a couple reasons. First, for me, I knew it had much more to do with something other than the phenomenon itself, and I wanted to drill down on that a little bit more. Most of you who regularly read this blog are like me in that you find nature an important spiritual pathway to God. I’ve written on this subject before, and that not infrequently. It is implicit in everything I write here and bears direct repeating from time to time. But second, I wanted to do more thinking for the benefit of those of you who may only slog through this blog because you’re my friend, who may not necessarily find nature to have this impact on you. I’m not trying to convince anyone that nature OUGHT to be something that leads you to God. That all depends on how God has wired you. Maybe it’s music, activism, philosophy, friendship, poetry, asceticism or contemplation that draws you deep toward the Divine. But I believe there is a spark of something in every created soul that can draw them to God-conscience, if they are willing.

I believe there is a spark of something
in every created soul that can draw
them to God-conscience… Creation
love, for me, is about God love.

Naturalists, even those who are Christ followers, can get excited about the simplest of things, so much so that some others may consider it a little whacked out. Now, a total eclipse is certainly not a minor thing, nor a simple one. There are actually good odds that ours might be the only sun and moon system in the universe where such a thing can happen. But that is not relevant. Naturalists can still wax inordinately long about the plainest of things or observations. They can be driven to huge efforts over what might seem to others minutiae. What’s the big deal about a unique mushroom, a stunning butterfly, a sunset, an action of an animal one has never observed even after a lifetime of observation? I’ll tell you what’s the big deal. At least for the Christian naturalist, it reminds her of creation, and in reminding her of creation, it reminds her of her Creator. Creation love, for me, is about God love, for the same reason that a gift presented to me by a beloved one is little about the gift and everything about the love.

I mean, why would two people travel seven hundred miles out of their way to observe a two-minute twenty-three second event?

Because it represents something far more than even its spectacular display, than even that it might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. As a Christian high schooler from the church I am serving described it, who saw totality with friends in eastern Oregon, “It was totally epic!” Thanks, Jacob. Great phrase for a total eclipse. I’m sorry I did not come up with it. And I couldn’t agree more.

I don’t expect some people to get this, but it touches on the way I and many others tick. Others may not understand it. But many do not understand God love either. Perhaps attention to nature could help here.

God love. This brings me to our friend St. Augustine, one of the first great theologians of the church, who lived in the 4th and 5th Century A.D. He was an apologist, a defender of the Christian faith in a world similarly bent on self-destruction as our day. But he was “asked whereon he rested his claim” of faith, in the words of an old Swedish hymn. For him, it led him to reflect on just what it is he loves when he loves his God. Now, mind you, Augustine was a very sensual man, something made starkly clear from his writings regarding his conversion, so listen for the sensate words in this testimony, every one of the five senses referenced. Here it is, St. Augustine on “What do I love when I love my God?”

What do I love when I love my God? It is not physical beauty or temporal glory or the brightness of light dear to earthly eyes, or the sweet melodies of all kinds of songs, or the gentle odor of flowers and ointments and perfumes, or manna or honey, or limbs welcoming the embraces of the flesh; it is not these I love when I love my God. Yet there is a light I love, and a food, and a kind of embrace when I love my God – a light, voice, odor, food, embrace of my innerness, where my soul is floodlit by light which space cannot contain, where there is sound that time cannot seize, where there is a perfume which no breeze disperses, where there is a taste for food no amount of eating can lesson, where there is a bond of union that no satiety can part. That’s what I love when I love my God.

So for me, and perhaps millions of others who find in nature a spiritual pathway. That’s what I also love when I love God’s creation. There’s something there -- a Divine mystery, attraction, self-disclosure, welcome, revelation – that words can hardly befit.

So there you have it. Thanks for your patience with my meager musings. I’m not a theologian, nor an apologist, but I do know what love is.

~~ RGM, August 28, 2017

1 comment:

  1. How fun to have you mention Jacob's 'totally epic' catch phrase in your post with St. Augustine! Beautiful words for a powerful, yet loving Creator. What an experience!