This morning I gathered with about fifteen members of a family for a graveside service on a hillside. The memorial was for a 96 year old grandfather for whom one of the key attributes shared by all was his gentleness. He was a gentle man, married to one woman for over seventy years. A gentle man who produced three sons who in turn were gentle men.
And spread out below us was a vast field of tall grass which, in the lack of any human musical accompaniment at the brief service, became a divine instrument of sorts on which the Father played his own tribute. There was no sound, except that of the gentle wind coursing through that tall grass. Like waves. Had I seen this before? I couldn’t say. But I stood spellbound by it. Amber waves of grass. Waves cascading, careening, caressing – wonder-full harmonious collisions forming patterns vanishing even as they appeared.
I felt like I could stand all day just watching, absorbing, basking, praising, thanking.
My friend and mentor David Roper shared this in his most recent “e-musing” – which just happened to be waiting for me in my inbox when I got back to my study:
Worship is the only adequate response to beauty when we behold it, for creation’s glory is a reflection of the glory of God. “Glory” suggests an epiphany (a shining out or a manifestation) of God and is, or so I believe, the biblical word, for “beauty.” Theologian Herman Bavinek said as much: “For the beauty of the Lord, scripture has a special word: glory.” God’s beauty is the penetrating light that shines out through all creation.
The word, “translucence” comes to mind. It suggests the capacity of all creation to take on something of God’s beauty and allow that beauty to “pass through” to our eyes. Our task, in turn is to grow eyes that look not merely at, but through the object to the beauty that lies beyond it and to think, “How beautiful must be He who made this beautiful thing?”
Thus, our response to beauty, when we behold it, should be worship, adoration, and thanksgiving—for the radiance of a corn flower, the splendor of a morning sunrise, the symmetry of one particular tree—for all nature declares the ineffable beauty of the One who made it.
C. S. Lewis was walking with a friend as they talked about worship and gratitude. Lewis wanted to know how to generate a thankful heart toward God, and asked, “Should we summon up all we know about God and his greatness?” His friend turned to a brook nearby (it was a very hot day) and splashed his face and hands in a little waterfall and said, “Why not begin with this?”
Today it was the beauty of amber waves of grass.
And I realized as I contemplated a gentle life well-lived for 96 years, much of it in wilderness, that the key to such deepening gentleness is found and nurtured in allowing ourselves to be so captivated by such moments, such sublime epiphanies of beauty.
I find myself driven too much by fear and foreboding, dominated by angst and acidic anger, brimming too much with bile and bitterness, gall and impatience? But today I heard his invitation yet again, not to escape in denial from the injustices and demands and pressing needs all about, but to see them differently through a heart reshaped and nurtured by beauty dripping from his palate quite literally everywhere.
On my patio surrounded by green grass and fruit trees. In the crisp morning air. In my grandson’s smile, my grand daughter’s giggle and her sparkling eyes.
Or today in amber waves of grass.
Why not begin with these?