[vimeo width="400" height="300"]http://vimeo.com/26400227[/vimeo] I've been reading the book Beautiful Outlaw over the last week by John Eldredge. Maybe you've seen some of my tweets. This book is a fabulous read and ranks up there in my library of books that should be read for basic spirituality. Why? Several reasons, but here's one.
The book is about the personality of Jesus and his real, tangible relationship with us. Eldredge does an awesome job of helping us to recover a vision of Jesus is that is stripped of religious coverings. It's deconstructive in the best senses of the word. In an early chapter called, "Is Jesus Really Playful?" John makes something of a profound door opening for me. It's not something I haven't thought about before, but someone it brought me deeper in my thinking not just theologically, but more personally. I've always known that God's qualities can be seen clearly in and through creation - that the Creator is imaged somehow through the things he creates... that his creations "reveal" him. This is clearly written in Paul's letter to the Romans in chapter 1. I've read that a million times, and I've thought about the heart and mind of the artist, and the fact that we are God's poetry (Ephesians). But this is so simple and profound that I've missed it all my life, and am so sad that I have because the richness and beauty of it is overwhelming. Listen how Eldredge puts it:
I was sitting out back yesterday morning sipping coffee, watching the young chipmunks chase one another at breakneck speeds across the deck. One clever daredevil, hoping to get the advantage, jumped up on the fence rail and continued to chase from above, leaping at the last moment upon his littermate like a Hollywood stuntman. This morning one of them adopted a new strategy. The little rascal found an ambush spot, clinging from the side of the house, where he waited for his playmate to wander by unawares; he then pounced, and the two somersaulted off the deck and into the grass, squealing. Only to dash off and do it again. And again. Now - what does this tell us about the personality of Jesus, who created these little dynamos with striped masks and boundless enthusiasm? - John Eldredge, Beautiful Outlaw, p. 19
Throughout the book, John asks simple questions like these about everything from the actions of polar bears, to the soft and sometimes powerful crashing of the waves. What does the gentle whispering of the Aspen, the thundering power of the storm - what do these say about the personality of Jesus? These "qualities" in the created world are qualities that come from our God.
"For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." -Romans 1:20
There is something profoundly personal and engaging in our relationship with God - in our understanding of him, in our experience of his personality that comes blazing through in every detail of the world around us. How have I missed this deep truth all of these years? This is the power that I feel and sense of God's presence when I read Wordsworth - and now I understand why. He is responding to the personality of God in and through the world he encounters - not to mention every other great poet who ever lived. This is so much better than the "contorted interpretations based upon religiously bizarre images [that] only serve to push Christ further off into the ethosphere." (Eldredge, Ibid, p. 24) No wonder I find myself communing with God so deeply while standing waste deep in the cool water of a small stream in northern Michigan. No wonder my heart leaps when I hear the call of the Loon or the soft covering of a much-needed rainfall while the world is sleeping in a summer of drought. No wonder so many people in so many cultures for so many millenium have been drawn astray to earth-sun-or moon worship. No wonder they say to "Stop and smell the roses." It's not just to enjoy nature, it's to hear God speaking through his most prevalent and present art form given freely and generously to all people everywhere in all times.