“Human beings have fallen in love with the echo of God’s excellency in creation and lost the ability to hear the incomparable, original shout of love.
The message of creation is this:
There is a great God of glory and power and generosity behind all this awesome universe; you belong to him; he is patient with you in sustaining your rebellious life; turn and bank your hope on him and delight yourself in him, not his handiwork.” (John Piper, The Message of Creation, Aug. 24, 2016, Desiring God)
But how do we love creation, yet not worship the created?
How do we practically, though, delight in the people and things God means for us to love and enjoy, but not fall into idolizing and needing those people and things more than God Himself? From C.S. Lewis:
“I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitchblack. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.
Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam and looking at the beam are very different experiences.
But this is only a simple example of the difference between looking at and looking along … When you have got into the habit of making this distinction you will find examples of it all day long…” (“Meditation in a Toolshed” by C.S. Lewis)
And as a summary of Lewis’ words, John Piper says: “All of God’s creation becomes a beam to be “looked along” or a sound to be “heard along” or a fragrance to be “smelled along”… All our senses become partners with the eyes of the heart in perceiving the glory of God through the physical world.” (When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy)
How, though, do we daily remember and apply these truths?
- We check our hearts frequently to ensure that we’ve not begun to assign greater value to the created than the Creator. “Father, has my desire for comfort become an idol, driving me to value and hide behind my possessions more than I turn to You? Give me eyes to see if so, and bring me to repentance!”
- We also, though, work to intentionally bask in each good moment — in the glow of magnificent northern lights, in the taste of chocolate, in the smells of a favorite season or the giggle of a favorite human.
- And while basking, we train our heart to remember that all the good of creation is given to lead us along toward enjoyment of God. Our senses are meant to guide us to joy in, and worship, God our Creator. We thoroughly enjoy the beam itself, but we joy in and worship and find ourselves amazed at the One the beam shines toward. We look ultimately along the beam, not only at the beam.
- So we spend our moments thankfully. We talk to God throughout each day, over and over, in growing awareness that He’s constantly giving a new beam, here and there, for us to look along: “O Father, thank you for the glimpse of that blue bird!” “Lord, your clouds are magnificent today!” “Father, I loved that conversation with her.” “God, thank you for the sun, the rain, the comfort of my friend’s concern. Thank you, even if today’s beams become ones of cloud and darkness, of suffering and heartache: for those beams especially remind me to check my idol-turning heart’s worship, and lead me again to delight myself in You, not your handiwork.”
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”