“Earth’s crammed with heaven,Elizabeth Barrett Browning
And every common bush afire with God.
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”1
These words penned by Elizabeth Barrett Browning didn’t change my life the instant I heard them. I was in a Christian education philosophy class, after all. I wasn’t expecting to experience a spiritual revolution.
But that’s what happened for me, and this poem was the beginning of it.
“We live in a God-drenched world,”2 my instructor said. He went on to say that Browning is pointing out the human tendency to miss the way that God is revealed in creation and simply consume the miracle for our own pleasure.
That class opened my eyes to so many things about God and the world—things that I am still learning and relearning. We live in a world of wonders, yet how often do my sin-smeared eyes even notice them?
Our Default Setting
I came to realize that God is revealing Himself through the world that He made. But do I let my experiences with His creation lead me to the Creator in humble worship? Or do I fall into this description written by Norman Wirzba? “Our temptation, perhaps even our default setting, is to halt an infinite gaze at some finite, manageable point, and thus render the gaze idolatrous.”3
Our senses are dulled to the marvels around us. Our eyes see Him, but we do not perceive Him. Our ears hear Him, but we do not listen. I expect to spend the rest of my life working to undo this tragic habit.
He Is There3
When you look out the window, do you see Him? Because He is there. He is there as His voice whispers secrets through the gently swaying trees. He is there in the delicate dewdrop clinging to the rose petal, reminding us that even the details matter to Him. He is there in the wide expanse of ocean meeting sky that speaks of His infinite love and grace. He is there in the million variations of a simple blade of grass that point to the complexity that rests on the other side of simplicity.
He is there, He is there, He is there. But do we see Him? Or are our eyes dulled by the normalcy of His constant Presence?
He is a God of miracles, but we are not always people who receive them. If the sun stood still today, would we stop to marvel at the miracle, or would we simply rush on to complete more of our to-do lists? Our logical Western minds and busy Western lives are working against us.
The Miracles of Now
We live in a world flowing with milk and honey, and yet we consume selfishly, as if it were all our own doing.
We walk in the fire and come out unscathed, completely unaware of the One who walks beside us.
We worship the God of a thousand armies surrounding us, but all our eyes see are the bare and desolate hills.
Like the children of Israel in the wilderness, the manna appears daily, and we tire of the miracle.
How would our experience of God be different if we saw Him burning in every bush? Would we pause more often to praise? Would we think of Him more and thank Him for His goodness? Would we whirl through the world like children with arms outstretched to soak in the delight of who He is?
And when we pluck the blackberries of provision, it often takes hard work to break our deeply ingrained mindset of entitlement. But His goodness is so lavish when you begin to look for it. Take food, for example. When the first bite of fresh corn-on-the-cob overwhelms your taste buds, think of the God who created that unique flavor. When the luscious cherry tomato bursts into your mouth, praise Him for creating this juicy texture. When you take a drink of icy lemonade after mowing the lawn, thank Him for the extravagant blessing of cold sweetness on hot days.
And humanity–beautiful, blundering, perfectly imperfect humanity. We bear His image in a constant display to those around us. Do we have eyes to see Him in our family, our friends, our neighbours? Do we delight in the way a child’s giggle shows us the heart of our Maker? Do we bask in the love of a spouse and marvel at the way it mirrors Christ’s love for His church? Do we see God’s nature in the patience of a father, the tenderness of a mother, or the rebuke of a friend? Do we see God’s creativity in unruly hair, contagious laughs, and dazzling eyes?
Train your eyes to see Him in the ordinary. He is there, all around you, revealing His heart of abundant giving. Creation is full of beauty, intricacy, and creativity straight from the hand of God. If we could truly fathom all of it, our hearts would be utterly overwhelmed with worship.
Oh, Lord, open our eyes, that we may see.
Meghan Brubaker lives in Yatton, Ontario with her wonderful husband Travis. Her profession/passion is teaching her class of wonderful sixth-graders. She loves being creative, whether it is through teaching, writing, or other hobbies like playing the piano or experimenting with word art. She loves to take delight in the small things in life, like the rosy clouds of a perfect sunset or finding a dew-laced spider web. Most of all, she desires to live fully by loving God and others deeply.
- “A Quote by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.” Goodreads, www.goodreads.com/quotes/38640-earth-s-crammed-with-heaven-and-every-common-bush-afire-with.
- Credit for this phrase goes to Steven Brubaker, one of the wisest men I know. And I’m not just saying that because he’s now my father-in-law.
- Wirzba, Norman. From Nature to Creation: a Christian Vision for Understanding and Loving Our World. Baker Academic, 2015.
- Some of what I say here may be misread as pantheistic. That is not my intention. God is revealed in creation, but creation is not God. This is an important distinction.