July 18, 2013
This morning my wife saw, for the first time in her life, a tiger swallowtail butterfly, up close and at rest. It’s a very big butterfly with bright yellow wings crossed by glossy black stripes: a thing of beauty, the work of God’s hands. As gorgeous as it is at rest, it flies like a fragment of a dream—lovely, yet impossible to pin down.
God cursed the ground for Adam’s sake, and His perfect creation became the fallen world we know. But there was mercy in God’s act, and love; and although the world was fallen, God lavished beauty on it. Otherwise we couldn’t live in it.
Crystal beads of dew on bright green grass; stars shining in the darkness; horseshoe crabs gliding into the shallow water for their silent mating under the full moon; the scarlet foliage of the maple trees in fall—there is more beauty in this world than anyone can live long enough to see, or even list. Why is it here? And why do we respond to it? How are we able to recognize it as beauty, and be moved by it?
Furthermore, it all functions perfectly. Seeds grow into flowers, and insects pollinate them. The big, clumsy beetles in my yard, in their armored covering that gleams like living jewels, fly with a “clunk” right into the white aluminum siding of the house, bounce off it, and just keep on flying. We can’t build aircraft that can do that.
The point is, God’s stuff works. It always works. It’s our stuff, which we’re so inordinately proud of, that has problems.
God’s stuff, in its beauty, in its perfect functioning, and in our own ability to respond to it, tells us something that we very badly need to know. It tells us that we’re not alone: that our Redeemer lives, that our Creator is always with us. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me,” David rejoices in the 23rd Psalm.
God is never not there. If we cannot find Him in our hearts, we can always find Him in the world around us. He has not abandoned us to stew in our sins. The works of His hands are a sign that He is with us. “Therefore will not we fear,” proclaims Psalm 47, “though the earth be removed, and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.”
But of course we do fear, in our shallow faith, because there’s so very much to be afraid of—most of it of our own making. Death came into the world through Adam’s disobedience, and we bear original sin. We fear what other men can do to us. Because of the curse that has lain upon the world since Adam, we fear natural disasters and disease, old age, war, and poverty. These things scare us silly.
Nevertheless, the seasons follow one another in their proper order, the sun keeps shining, the ocean currents keep on circulating, the tiger swallowtail comes to rest on a sweet flower. And because God made us in His image, we can delight in the beauty He created, and even create some beauty of our own—music, art, the disciplines of the mind, and words to stir the soul. But the greatest of these, and the surest sign that we belong to God, is love.
Now all of this has been, and will be, mocked by unbelievers. They stand on God’s earth and breathe His air, they eat and drink by His provision, and insist there is no God—it all came here by chance, it has no meaning, the only great thing in the universe is… them.
In light of what we see, and feel, and know, this is hardly worthy of an answer.
The ungodly will not inherit the earth. The earth belongs, they believe, to whoever is strong enough, rich enough, sly enough, or unscrupulous enough to seize it and to make it stick. It’s all about legislation and court cases, controlling the media and the flow of information, and silencing dissent by one means or another.
But they will not inherit. The earth is the Lord’s, and no one else’s. The God who spins the galaxies and shapes the suns from atoms will not be moved from His throne by sinful men who rely on theft, deceit, and cruelty to get their way—no more than the building will be knocked down by the stupid beetle bumping into it.
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And so, because our Lord is with us, and never not with us, we may fear for a time, but not forever. We fall, but we get up again. We grope, but we continue to inch our way toward Him. We cry out in our perplexity, but we have it written down that Christ has saved us and that the Father, at a time set down by Him from the beginning, will put all things under the Son and renew His creation in all its original perfection. “Behold,” says the Lord, “I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:5).
We may not fly anywhere near as well as the beetle, let alone the butterfly; but fly we do, and our souls know where they’re going.
For we are part of God’s stuff, too.
© 2013 Lee Duigon - All Rights Reserved
Lee Duigon, a contributing editor with the Chalcedon Foundation, is a former newspaper reporter and editor, small businessman, teacher, and horror novelist. He has been married to his wife, Patricia, for 34 years. See his new fantasy/adventure novels, Bell Mountain and The Cellar Beneath the Cellar, available on www.amazon.com