Eyes Wide Open

By Ben Swift

“I don’t need no one to tell me about heaven, I look at my daughter, and I believe. I don’t need no proof, when it comes to God and truth, I can see the sunset and I perceive.” (Lyrics from ‘Heaven’ by Live)

Despite the terrible things of this world, there is an undeniable beauty that most certainly exists around every corner we turn, under every rock we overturn, even in the most terrifying aspects of nature. While it is easy to be drawn towards a focus on the darker tones of life, hugely influenced by the bombardment of the press in all its forms, we must not lose sight of the overwhelming beauty that has been gifted us by the Creator God through what has been spoken into being.

‘The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.’ (Psalm 19:1)

When you consider the complexity of creation, it doesn’t matter at what level you enter it. With eyes wide open one cannot help but be awestruck. The human being is a case in point, each individual person made unique through the process of meiosis, each cell carrying with it a genetic code reflecting an individual melting pot of family traits ensuring each of us as a one of a kind, even to the point of our fingerprints. Who could even begin to calculate the number of fingerprint patterns that must have existed throughout all of time, let alone the number of unique patterns represented in snowflakes. And yet the Bible speaks of a God who knows us so intimately that he has numbered the very hairs on our heads.

What’s also incredible is that God’s revelation to His creation would not be possible without the gift of perception. Have you ever wondered why it is that any of us wonder at all? Why is it that we are drawn to the colourful palette of the setting sun, the contrasting blues of the ocean or the soft, white fur of the baby seal? Humankind has certainly been given a gift when it comes to reflecting on beauty and meaning and the source of it all.

Our ability to reflect the creative nature of our God has enabled us to create all sorts of tools for investigating creation at a deeper level. Consider the evolution of the microscope and our ability to understand the nature of cells including the role of DNA as our genetic blueprint. On the other hand, consider the telescope and its ability to open our eyes to what is only the beginning of the vastness of space. Our ability and artistic ingenuity has allowed us to not only reflect on the here and now but to capture it on film, opening up access to areas we personally may never have travelled to or even dreamed of.

Perhaps one of the greatest films to capture and invoke a sense of awe for the natural world was ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’.[1] Sean O’Conner, a photographer in the film made the following memorable quote when sharing a rare view of a snow leopard through the lens of his camera:

“If I like a moment, I mean me personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of a camera. I just want to stay in it. Right there…right here…To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind the walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the meaning of life.”

The character Sean O’Conner certainly resonates with many of us and he comes close to the truth but fails to go the full distance by defining the meaning of life in the absence of the source of life.

So what does this all mean for the human? Is it enough to simply take hold of the gift of perception and reflection, drawing no further meaning from it other than appreciation?

N.T. Wright suggests, “We must acknowledge that beauty, whether in the natural order or within human creation, is sometimes so powerful that it evokes our very deepest feelings of awe, wonder, gratitude and reverence.” But importantly, “The beauty of the natural world is, at best, the echo of a voice, not the voice itself.”[2]

The Apostle Paul understood this well.

‘For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.’ (Romans 1:20)

God has indeed revealed Himself to every human being. A general revelation that should never be regarded as simply ‘general’ in that it is so incredible, so humbling and awe-inspiring that it surely points to a Creator beyond anything we can comprehend. Theologian J.I. Packer suggests that God in His general revelation, “actively discloses aspects of Himself to all human beings, so that in every case failure to thank and serve the Creator in righteousness is sin against knowledge, and denials of having received this knowledge should not be taken seriously.”[3]

Surely God the Creator is not a hidden God in that He has revealed Himself to us. While we cannot know all of God, creation has His fingerprints all over it, from the human being to the venous fly trap. We simply need to approach life with our eyes wide open. Let’s not stop there however, but humbly acknowledge God for who He is, worshiping the Creator, not the creation, and letting creation point us to Christ in whom God has been truly revealed.

 

 

[1] Thurber, James and Conrad, Steven. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. (Harcourt, Brace and Company, United States, 2013).

[2] Wright, Tom. Simply Christian. (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London, 2006.) p.38.

[3] Packer, J.I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois, 1993). p. 9.

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