Thursday, October 9, 2008

Going for a nature walk on a city bus

Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, invites believers to fill their minds with things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable . . . you get the picture. When I hear his admonition I think of getting away from the hustle and bustle of life. I think of soul-exposing art or music, or perhaps to a soul-humbling vista in the Rockies or at the Grand Canyon, or even to the soul-lifting stars that blanket a crisp, clear west Texas night. I don't think of people. At least not everday people. And yet, if I listen closely to the testimony of scripture I discover that even people, regular, ordinary people – the kind we bump up against and become aggravated with everyday – display the glory of God’s hand if we’ll just look for it there.

Eugene Peterson tells the story in his book Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places about one of his students who took a crowded bus to school each day. One day, he looked at his wife as he was walking out the door and said, “I’m just going to go out and immerse myself in God’s creation today.”

She thought that was pretty weird but let it pass. Maybe he was stressed out and needed a break from school. Maybe a day in the park would do him some good. Only, the next day, as he headed out the door for class, he said the same thing. She let it pass once more, but was growing worried. On the third day, when he again told her he was going to immerse himself in God's creation, she stopped him and said, “Don’t you think you ought to go to class today? A couple of days of walking in the woods or on the beach is okay, but don’t you think enough is enough?”

He answered, “Oh, I’ve been going to class every day.”

“Then what,” she said, “is all this business about immersing yourself in creation?”

“Well, I spend forty minutes on the bus each morning and afternoon. Can you think of a setting more thick with creation than that – all these people created, created in the image of God, created male and female?”

“I never thought of that,” she said.

“You mean you’ve never read Genesis?”[1]

Very often, when we think of things that are noble or lovely we think of anything but people. But the scriptures tell us that we, humanity, with all our foibles and missteps, are nevertheless the culmination of God’s creation. So, your neighbor who always wears her pants up too high – nobility in the pantheon of God’s creation. Your coworker who’s so shy it’s almost painful – a lovely work of God’s hand. The homeless man standing at the intersection asking for change – as true a part of God’s creation as the most beautiful flower – and so are you - if we’ll look and see.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set into place, what is man that you are mindful of him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor – Psalm 8:3-5.

[1] Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 82.

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