Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Unparalleled Beauty of Reality (incl. Psalm 17)

“Some people are still unaware that reality contains unparalleled beauties. The fantastic and unexpected, the ever-changing and renewing is nowhere so exemplified as in real life itself.” –Berenice Abbot.

I recall being at a group therapy meeting years ago and a guy getting up describing a scenic flight over the Antarctic. He relayed the story in awe to the group of fascinated listeners. Breath-taken as he took us into the vision of the sweeping vistas, the cool, innocent light and the enormity of the images his eyes could see, he remarked, ‘Now, God, you’re really showing off here.’ In a sense he was ‘high on life.’

The reality of nature is often awe-inspiring, but the Berenice Abbot quote above alludes to something of far bigger and broader significance.

We not only take our time and our responsibilities for granted half the time, we also don’t appreciate reality for what it is. Instead of embracing its beauty we often shrink from it.

Some find it scary and painful, and altogether too powerful a concept to take in all at once, all of its truth--they can’t cope.

It takes much courage to live life truthfully and at complete harmony with reality. Many cannot yet do it and unawares to them, substitute parts of reality for a crutch--a food, a drink, a drug, or a myriad of other forms of escapism.

We get all sorts of rhetoric quoted in politics, and not all the ideologies and philosophies espoused hold true. The following however, I believe, is a sensible way forward. To embrace this approach more is the very sense of courage that can help us make each aspect of our lives work:

“For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth, and to provide for it.”[1] –Patrick Henry (Speech before the Virginia Convention of Delegates, March, 1775).

Yet, reality can be coarse and too much to bear at times. We get the ‘unexpected’ result in life and we cringe. The ‘ever-changing’ nature of life can crush the fear-submitted spirit, overwhelming us. When we feel immersed in stress where do we go?

And this simply reminds us that we do need safe refuge at times. In Psalm 17:7 David is found crying out to God, “Show the wonder of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.” Foes are not always represented as other people; they can be our own fears, and even the fickle nature of life represented in reality--we don’t always like what happens to us, do we?

We can seek the wonders of God’s great love--as great is nature is, it’s only a part of God’s love-gift to us. His Spirit waits eternally to break-in to our lives, to refresh and renew us.

This is where we need a ‘crutch’--the only permissible and beneficial crutch--his name is Jesus Christ. When life turns pear-shaped, he alone can provide the way home; we can still even sense the Spirit of joy, a peace that surpasses knowledge, in these troubled circumstances. And, we don’t need the other crutches when we have his Presence.

If we pray for God to keep us as the apple of his eye, and to hide us under his wings,[2] at these times, we can hope to see his face and sense the presence of his Spirit calming us for a fresh assault on reality--when we’re ready.

And we do this by trusting him and not taking matters entirely into our own hands.

Let’s take reality for what it is, holus bolus. When we look to nature and the wonders in the universe, we can be sure that God’s showing off his love for us manifest in his entire creation.

Reality, seen truthfully, in the light of God, is simply gorgeous.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

[1] John Frost, The American Speaker, (New York: Arno Press, 1974) p. 92. Available for book review at:

[2] Psalm 17:8.

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