Voices: Bigger: The sanctuary of nature and the presence of God

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I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory
(Psalm 63:2 NIV).

Nature calms me and reminds me in times of doubt and feeling disconnected from God that the Creator truly is. I find assurance in the creativity of each leaf, tumbling stream, dipping valley, rolling wave, bird song and even the blade of grass surviving against all odds in the crack of the sidewalk.

The minute details of nature act like a balm to my weary soul. They remind me with a fierceness something has been here creating and is still here creating.

Remembering this brings me to God’s sanctuary. Sanctuary is a word too often equated with a building. It actually means “refuge” or safety.” It means God’s very presence.

Longing for more

During a recent hike in the mountains of North Carolina, I looked over the mountains and breathed in the sheer magnitude of the landscape. My heart cried, “Bigger,” even though it already was so big.

I was looking out at miles of wilderness, but I wanted more. Some probably would call this selfishness, but as I reflected, I saw my insatiable hunger for more and bigger as coming from the image of God woven into our very beings.

I have a longing for all God has created; for all justice to be accomplished now, not later; for all things to be made whole now, not later; for the church to be what Christ commanded now, not later.

My longing is not much different than the sentiment expressed in Psalm 13, “How long, O Lord?” How long until there is relief, until hope can break through to reality?

The object of our longing

I am comforted that God does not shame our ambition to see this world made right or to dream of bigger and better, even to demand it. I believe such ambition fills God with great joy, because it means we actually get God’s vision and power. When we are captured by this knowledge, we enter into the work of creating with God in a whole new way.

When we are dreaming and longing for “bigger” in the areas of justice, community, the meaningful participation of all and the thriving of creation, we can be assured we are in God’s sanctuary.

Even if we enter God’s sanctuary feeling weary and with our souls dried up, we are in the presence of Living Water. We are where we can grieve, celebrate, heal, rage, wrestle, laugh and question until we realize Christ is with us in it.

Then we can praise the name of God in all of our complicated mess as we sit with what is and what is yet to come. God delights in this exchange of our full self and welcomes our holy hunger for “bigger.”

A prayer

May the following prayer help you pray for more of God’s vision, power and way.

“Lord, the world is a bit of a mess right now. I am not sure of my place in it, but I am feeling overwhelmed by _____________; I am mad about _____________; I need _____________; I am feeling hopeful about/in awe of _____________.

I am feeling all of this, and today, I choose to remember this sanctuary and place of safety where I can bring it all and stay until I am comforted by your great love. Amen.”

*******

Veronica Timbers is a doctoral student in Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work. As a licensed clinical social worker, she has 15 years of experience in mental health practice and has worked in ministry settings as a chaplain and part-time campus minister. The views expressed are those solely of the author.


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