By Wendy Anne Clark
In Romans 1:20 Paul writes, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (NIV). God’s eternal power and divine nature are clearly seen—they are understood through creation. So one way I can know and understand more about God is to spend time observing nature.
Consider this situation from a different side. If nature reveals God, then one way to keep people separate from God would be to remove those people from nature. Take them away from the land and pile them up in cities. Make sure they have their babies in sterile environments, away from home and that they bury their dead the same way, hiding the most raw parts of the process from view. Separate them from the practice of growing their own food, from relying on God for rain and sun and protection of their crops.
I’ve pondered nature and it’s connection to God as I’ve noted that so many outspoken Atheists and Agnostics come from our large cities, far away from a life lived in nature. Is that simply where the most out-spoken live, or is there a further connection? Thomas Jefferson noted a connection between moving from living off of the land and moving into cities to a rise in immorality. There could be a lot of factors that contribute to that rise. Being separated from nature and what it reveals to us about God—could that be one of the contributing factors?
Is it a coincidence that as people move further away from contact with nature, the number of people experiencing depression begins to rise? And is it significant that as I read about people dealing with depression, so many—whether religious or not—find comfort, relief, and a general lifting of their spirits by going out into nature?
Whatever the truth about all of these situations, the Apostle Paul teaches that nature has a purpose—it reveals God’s “eternal power and divine nature” to us, if we will only look—and see.
One thing that I recommend that we all do regularly if at all possible is to get out and walk, and as we do, to look and listen and breathe and pray and think about what God is revealing about Himself all around us.
Another thing you might try is to spend some time closely observing nature. Sit down with a sketch book, and try to draw what you see. It doesn’t matter much whether your drawings are any good; it is the process of closely observing and trying to draw what you see that you should most interested in, the activity of focused seeing that is important. Make the effort to really see, and then to think: What does nature tell you about God? What does it reveal about His eternal power? About his divine nature?
How long has it been since you have spent time working out in your yard? Digging, planting, watering, weeding—what do you think about while you are doing these things? What do you see? What can God teach you through these simple, repetitive activities? How does it feel to see things sprout up and grow? To watch a plant shrivel up and die?
Nature is God’s invitation to all of mankind—an invitation to come and see—to understand something of who He is. It is such a clear invitation, that if we choose to ignore it, Paul writes, we “are without excuse.”
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—
his eternal power and divine nature—
have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made,
so that people are without excuse.
Romans 1:20 (NIV)