Recently I found myself in a place of spiritual disconnection. I decided to remedy this feeling by spending some quiet time at our beautiful lake cabin in the remote north woods of Wisconsin.
The first morning out on the dock was spectacular. The sun was just coming up, mist was rising off the lake, and in this pristine setting … I pulled out my iPhone. Because of course the best way to connect with God is to find a good God app.
Within seconds, I was in the dungeon of the app store, completely sucked into its gravity, oblivious to anything around me. As I perused the religious wallpaper, games and virtual meditation sites, I suddenly stopped, having the distinct feeling that someone or something was watching me. A huge shadow floated over, darkening the screen. I looked up to see a bald eagle silently gliding about seven feet above my head out across the lake.
I couldn’t help but think of the words from Psalm 46: “Be still and know that I am God.” How ridiculous it was that I was sitting in the midst of Eden, surrounded by the very face of God, yet I was searching and searching for the holy in this tiny electronic box. God is not in our cell phones, our iPads, our social media pages, our Instagram or Pinterest accounts. Sure they are great tools for sharing news of inspiration or healing. But if we find our spiritual tanks empty, the best way to refill is to put down the iPhones and walk outside. Nature is God’s greatest work.
Consider the work of other great artists. You get a peek into the mind of Picasso when you look at his paintings; you hear St. Matthew’s Passion and get a glimmer of the heart of Bach; you taste a Shake Shack burger and you find out a bit about restauranteur Danny Myer. So too when we stop and notice the beauty of creation—God’s finest artistic work—then we see a spark of the holy.
Every day we must take time to acknowledge nature—the evidence of a higher power in our midst, for it is a poignant reminder that we are not in charge.
After the eagle soared overhead, I turned off the iPhone and began to look around, noticing some of the tiny, intimate things around me, like a spider web that was gleaming in the sun. The dew had caught in its intricate pattern revealing a most beautiful, sophisticated work of art.
The shimmer of the web made me ask myself this question: Who taught the spider to do that? No architectural school in the galaxy could impart that kind of talent. I immediately thought of the line from the book of Job when God gets annoyed at Job’s doubts and says: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (Job 38:4) Just look around. We aren’t in charge—not even close.
When you start feeling spiritually disconnected, lonely, even depressed, just step outside, and admire the work of the greatest artist of all. As the great nature poet Wendell Berry wrote in The Peace of Wild Things:
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things.
A version of this blog was a sermon delivered at the historic Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City.