I have noticed, and I’m sure you have, too, a fashion, an inclination, an easy agreement in conversation when the subject arises about God as nature or seeing God in nature. Often we nod in agreement without thinking much about the implications of such a perception. Of course, nature hints at its creator much the same way we know an artist by the painting. We could never mistake a Van Gogh for a Pollock. But the artist is not the painting and the painting is but a portion of the artist. Neither are the same.
But we persist in worshipping nature as if she were God. We are like the journeyman — one who never quite makes it — pursuing his dream with no realistic expectation of ever achieving it. He perpetuates his belief when there is no evidence for believing it. Believing nature is God is the same perpetuation.
This conversation passes as benign as if nature were always azure skies, budding laurels, lapping tides and unimpeded inhaled sunsets. But when this same nature hurls some random, unforgiving, tempestuous storm, she cedes those sublime qualities attributed to her. Suddenly, she becomes an uninvited guest like cancer or a heart attack or death unexpected and too soon. She is rather something to fear, prepare against, curse, blame and demand exaction for her behavior.
And here within nature’s duality, our thinking ends when God wishes it to begin. The litany goes this way. A good God would not allow this to happen; it is God’s will; God is punishing me for my sins; God owes me; what God gives, he takes away. Believing him to be nature allows us a lazy logic, rather resembling an unfinished sentence. Can God be so reduced?
But God is not nature, though enough mystery surrounds her allowing us to see his hand in the matter. I have marveled at three-hundred-year-old live oaks but am quickly reminded the Spanish moss hanging from its branches is filled with chiggers. A rose is not easily cut without being pricked by its thorns. Sometimes faith is easier to lose than doubt, God easier to blame than nature. And while some grow distant from God during life’s inevitable tribulations, others find God’s solace despite their hell.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NKJV).
I can find no better picture of God than Paul’s description in Corinthians. The God who comforts me has no thorns, hurls no storms, shines hope into my desperation, faith into my doubt.
Wisdom is the simple matter of drawing the right conclusion from our perception, a proper way to end a sentence.
“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15, NKJV).
Deck Cheatham has been a golf professional for more than 40 years. He lives with his family in Dalton. Write to him at email@example.com.