There are many ways God reveals to us who God is. God lets us know some things about God through the Old and New Testaments, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Yet another way we know something about God is through creation itself, the natural world around us.
God created nature and everything in it. Story after story in scripture reflects this. For example, from Genesis we find, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth.”
What is interesting to me is that Jesus over and over again used creation itself, nature, to teach us about ourselves and God. Here are just a few examples. In Matthew’s Gospel we find, “Don’t worry. Don’t be so concerned about things. Look at the birds all around you. God feeds them and takes care of them. Don’t you think God will take care of you? And look at lilies. God cares for them. Don’t you think God will care for you too?”
Another day, Jesus said (Matthew 17:20), “Hey listen up people. Take a look at a mustard seed. It is pretty small isn’t it. Tiny in fact. Take another look at it. You will be amazed at what you can do even if you have just a little bit of faith, faith the size of a mustard seed.”
Given all of this and the fact that scripture and nature work in tandem to teach us about God and ourselves, I believe that paying attention, when we are out in nature, to what lessons we might learn is a worthy endeavor. There are boundless opportunities.
For example, one really neat thing in nature is rocks that are known as erratics. From one source, “An erratic is a rock differing in size and type of rock native to the area in which it rests. Erratics are carried by glacial ice often long distances. When the ice melts, the rock is left. Often scientists can discover where a rock came from.” Erratics can be found all over the world. There are even some in our general area.
An erratic is where it is because an outside force put it there. A glacier, no longer visible, placed a particular erratic where we find it now and formed its present shape. This reminds me of a quote many of you have heard. Its origin apparently is not completely agreed upon, but regardless, the quote is, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
Said another way, every human being is struggling with a variety of things. Often such things are not visible nor are the sources of the struggle visible. When we encounter someone, they are where they are and we may not see or know what caused them to be where they are and how we find them. Like a rock, moved by a glacier long ago, that moved a rock long ago, sometimes people are left with the consequences of something that happened long ago. It just may not be visible to us.
It is a great reminder to all of us that in life our first-line response to others needs to be compassion, empathy, understanding, kindness, gentleness, and openness. That we are called to be very slow in making judgments or engaging in criticisms. It is the way of Jesus, all of which is found throughout scripture.
Here are just a few verses that come to mind. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted and forgiving.” (Ephesians 4:32) “Put on a compassionate heart with kindness.” (Colossians 3:12). “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) “Be gentle and patient with others.” (Ephesians 4:2) “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:5). “Whoever has not sinned, let him cast the first stone.” (John 8:7).
When it is all said and done, in some ways each of us is an erratic. There have been forces in our lives we have not chosen that have impacted us. Things have come our way that have influenced who we are now. We all have challenges and heartaches in the midst of joys and blessings. Erratics remind us as does scripture, to follow the path of Jesus when encountering all others.
I invite you as you enjoy these summer months to pay attention to all you see and experience outside. When we open our eyes, it is likely we can learn much that is in alignment with scripture. I’d love to hear about what you encounter in God’s magnificent creation.