My reflection on Chapter 1 (“Awe and Wonder”) from the book We Make the Road by Walking by Brian McLaren.
So we are back to beginning of McLaren’s book (remember we actually began at chapter 14 at the start of Advent), and now we are back to where everything began. Not just where McLaren’s book began, but where EVERYTHING began. I remember how this particular chapter captured my attention because it reminded me how all creation contains in it beauty and majesty and power and awesomeness. All because of God our Maker. McLaren writes that as we walk on the road through this world and witness this creation, we are filled with that aliveness God desires us to have. For the world—all of it—has become sacred space.
So, yes, nothing is boring, as McLaren indicates. Not walruses or spiders (ick) or sunsets (ahh) or blades of grass. Of course, in a world where we are always looking for the next exciting thing (right now it is the Olympics in Rio and Ryan Lochte’s concocted story about a hold-up) we forget that right under our nose…and right at our eye level…and right there above us…and all around us…is some pretty magnificent creation waiting to be appreciated. And McLaren adds that God isn’t boring either!
God’s dream that God brought into reality out of nothing is nothing short of amazing.
McLaren, in his discussion questions, suggests we name the most beautiful place we have ever seen. Fine, happy to do that, Brian—but why do you limit me to one most beautiful place? The moment I bring up one memory of a place I have seen, a memory of another beautiful place rises up to meet it.
So I will offer my short list of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. You go ahead and consider yours. Betcha can’t list just one.
Niagara Falls (I sense a “Three Stooges” routine coming on, so let’s keep going.)
The first view down into Zion Canyon from the tunnel
A full moon reflected on the water, seen from a Dunes Motel balcony in Ocean City, MD
Looking down upon tiny Innsbruck, Austria from atop a mountain in the Alps (reached by 2 inclines and 1 aerial cable car)
The Vernal Falls at Yosemite (both from the bottom, and then, upon reaching the top)
My Hershey Red azalea bushes in front of our house in mid-April
Fall foliage along Route 322 west (from about Newport to Lewistown)
The Grand Tetons, viewed while boating on Jackson Lake
The massive tossed-about rocks of Devil’s Den, as seen from Little Round Top, Gettysburg
The bluest of blue waters at Horseshoe Bay in Bermuda
The baby bunny and its parent eating our clover and playing in our backyard
Seeing as I can’t seem to stop thinking about beautiful places, and my list is ever-growing, I’ll come to a stop here. You get the point. You probably got the point as you considered your own most beautiful places. They are legion. God has made creation so.
Of course, there are places I have yet to see in my lifetime. They are legion as well. One of those places is Iceland. A parishioner is there right now, as I speak. I hope he puts a few photos on Facebook for me. I’m sure it’s beautiful.
The main reason I want to go to Iceland is Mrs. Gresh, my 6th grade Social Studies teacher, once assigned the class a big report on the country of our choice. I chose Iceland, entranced by the pictures in the encyclopedia. First I wrote to their tourist bureaus to receive colorful pamphlets, and then cut those pictures out and glued them on my hand-printed report. (Definitely low-tech in 1968.) Then, with the help of my mom, who was much better at crafts, I produced a large visual aid of the typical Iceland landscape. It helped that my dad was a dentist, so I had ample compound material (the gooey stuff you chomp on in a mouth tray so the dentist can create an impression of your teeth?) to create glaciers and mountains and lakes and hot springs. Mom and I mounded up this compound, shaping it until it was in the form desired, allowed it to harden, then painted it brown and green and blue and white. Glitter was sprinkled on the “snow caps.” A handful of fiber glass was applied at one end, and curved to form the “spray” of a geyser. Plastic wrap was stretched tight over a depression in the compound that had been painted blue, then more compound applied to hold the plastic wrap down. A crater lake with a shiny flat surface was formed on the landscape.
Last year, when I helped my mom clean out her attic, we found the Iceland project. She suggested I take it home to keep it. I suggested I take a photo to remember it by, then chuck it.
I have included the photo (disregard the liquor boxes in the background. Remember, this is an attic filled with my parents’ stuff in liquor boxes and whatever other containers they found over the years.)
The whole point of this story is that, to be honest, it was hard work to create that Iceland landscape. Mound up the mountains, dot the peaks with snow, fill the lake with water. And I was just using dental compound, and needed my mother’s help at that. Think of the Maker with stardust and snowflakes, water droplets and sun rays, seeds and stones and sand. What masterful work is creation in God’s hands—no wonder all we can do some days is say “Wow!”
Our next chapter is 2: “Being Human.” See you on the journey!