Olivia Cannon, Bowdoin Class of 2017
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; Night after night they display knowledge.” Psalm 19:1-2
“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?” Job 12:7-9
I have found that many things in life seem hidden to us only because we do not contemplate them. If there is one thing every human can agree on, it is that this Earth is incredibly beautiful. Put any of us on top of a mountain, or in front of an ocean at dusk, or anywhere in autumn, and likely he will stop in his tracks, even just for a moment. Even the most jaded among us will concede that fine, it’s pretty—they’re just bored with it.
What gets me is that it doesn’t have to be beautiful. There is no good reason why a world created by chance, a planet solely utile, should be beautiful. Appreciating the world for what it does for us is one thing, but beauty is something that transcends usefulness. When we think of efficiency, do we not think of gray, heavy machinery, of cities, of factories? Yet nature, which is in many ways more efficient than any of our inventions (for who of us knows how to turn carbon dioxide back into oxygen?), is intricately and delicately beautiful. An unforgiving force might have well created an army of robots—yet here we find ourselves, surrounded by a world as delicate as it is harsh, as beautiful as it is practical.
But why? Someone vaguely contemplating this might conclude, “some general life force really likes us.” The truth is, God loves us, and He wants us to know who He is. The art says something about the Artist—that He made us, that He loves us, and that He has a life for us more wonderful than we could ever imagine.
Many say that this world was created by chance. A million rolls of the dice, in succession, which all happened to be favorable. Whenever I look at nature, though, I cannot imagine its perfection emerging from chance. If I tried to balance an ecosystem, to make it work with even a thousand days of planning, all the animals and plants would certainly die. Every time humans try to manipulate nature, we— intelligent beings—almost always manage to hurt it, throwing off the balance. For all the good we might do, through medicine, politics, agriculture, it seems like for every problem we solve, ten more are created (I shudder to think of things such as global warming and ozone depletion). If chance made the world, we should be able to make it better, but all we seem to be able to do is mess it up. Despite our best efforts, our lack of understanding of the created order condemns us to failure when we try to make the world over in our own image. Our failure, as rational beings, to order things on the grand scale of creation suggests that the order we see is imposed by a higher Will. And this order is more righteous and beautiful than even the furthest depths of our understanding.
There are a thousand miracles reason cannot explain. Why does frozen rain become billions of stunningly beautiful, soft, gentle crystals? Why does sunlight feel like a warm embrace? Why do flowers exist in every color of the rainbow, each more beautiful than the next?
All I know is that whenever I close my eyes and throw things together, hoping for the best, I make a mess. When I was little, playing with colors, I always, no matter what, made brown. It seems impossible that this world, beautiful and pleasing in so many ways, could have come from chance. I know that it was made by a Creator, one who wanted to show us His glory, who gave us our senses so we might contemplate this majesty and come to Him. The Bible says that “by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,” (Colossians 1:16), and furthermore, it affirms that “his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20). His glory is right there in front of us, and we can choose to recognize it or not.
This world didn’t have to be beautiful, but it is. That, to me, is a perfect example of grace. Every time I look at Creation, I am left in awe not only of God’s beauty, but also of the fact that He invites us to partake in it. God created the world and made it stunningly beautiful, and the sheer magnitude of it, the way each leaf and berry is its own masterpiece but the whole thing is a wonderful collage, is too much for any of us to comprehend—yet it is the world that He invites us to live in with Him.
I see nature and I see a world that leaves me in silent awe, wanting to soak in its beauty with every pore. In it I become at once humbled and amazed, because I know that my God is bigger and more beautiful still than every wonder on Earth, and yet He wants to share all that with me.
In God is life. “It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens” (Jeremiah 10:12). In everything He made, He shows us His grace by giving us more than just what we need to exist (for is beauty or pleasure necessary for survival?)—and also shows us who He is: a God more incredible than our deepest visions.
Therefore Creation is and was more than happenstance. It’s a gift and an invitation, an image of the world we were meant to live in and a testament to who God is. And it’s a gift that merits a response.