He was an agnostic. His love of the outdoors had nothing to do with God. Our dad didn’t connect nature to its Creator. But he connected us to peaceful spaces full of adventure in a boundless playground. He didn’t know God created light, heaven, dry land, seas, plant life, the sun, moon, stars, sea creatures, birds, animals, and creeping things in six days. But his contagious enchantment with the mysterious design filled us with endless delight.
Dad taught my sisters and me the best time of day to fix our eyes on the horizon and take in the radiant ever-changing pastel shades of light. Many an hour was spent discerning elephant, dinosaur, or Mickey Mouse shapes in the clouds. Because I was the bravest of his four girls, he led me to walk slowly and lightly on summer nights through the yard. My mission was to pull night crawlers from the wet earth while he held the flashlight over their homes. He demonstrated how to wait for the wave to crest before diving into it. He showed us how to climb a tree, plant seeds, and water flowers. He taught us when and how to collect, store, peel, crack, and eat beech nuts, hickory nuts, and walnuts. After his instruction, he challenged us to identify different trees by examining their leaves and bark. We learned to spit out our chewed teaberry leaves, and birch tree branch skins instead of swallowing them. We thought it was a magic trick when a piece of paper caught fire under the magnifying glass he held to reveal the power of the sun. And it was difficult to see the face of the man in the moon he insisted was there. He taught us the constellations, and we tried not to blink when we watched for shooting stars.
Each of the four seasons brought about changes we conformed to and embraced. He taught us how to bait a hook and snag a fish, dive like a dolphin, examine the construction of a bird’s nest, whistle like a robin, and caw like a crow. Hunts for rabbit burrows, groundhog holes, and squirrel nests often took us off a worn path, and through prickly ropes of underbrush that required slow deliberate marching-like footsteps. To ensure we wouldn’t destroy its design, we studied the symmetrical lines of a spider’s web from a distance. On rare occasions we witnessed the delicate structure entangle the arachnid’s prey. One of my favorites was his explanation of the caterpillar’s trip in and out of its cocoon.
Without a doubt, an inherited passion for the outdoors influenced many of my life choices, and continues to enhance me sixty years after my first guided tour on a woods path. However, unlike my father, I came to know the beauty and wonder I’ve embraced in God’s magnificent creation point me to Him, and reveal more of His character and immeasurable grace. Although he passed on to me his passion for the outdoors, my dad didn’t, or couldn’t, tell me God made and sustains all of it.
Humbled by this knowledge, I’m committed to make known to upcoming generations the authentic story of God’s creation and His divine intervention. Consequently, the Creator lovingly provides opportunities to exercise my commitment.
The combined group of third and fourth grade Sunday school students could only guess. Although well-versed in Bible story content, and dead-on with the truth about salvation, they struggled with the days of creation – when God created everything.
“On what day did God make the sun, moon, and stars?”
Always eager to please me, the six little scholars deflated as I responded to each of their incorrect guesses.
“What about light. Think first, and raise your hand only if you know for sure.”
Two hands rose, and then sunk slowly. I resolved to insert discussion and memorization of the days of creation in our weekly lesson.
Up until a year ago, without the chapter and verse in front of me, I couldn’t answer correctly, either. My interest to connect the corresponding days to God’s specific work began the night I held our infant granddaughter under a star-filled sky, and explained the One Who created her, created the heavens, and all of what He created is to glorify Him. The realization of my responsibility to introduce this little mind to Her Creator’s handiwork prompted me to know creation story details, and make it a part of my daily devotion. On Mondays, I read the first day of creation. Tuesdays’ study consists of God’s second day of action, and so on. Thus, as I pass on to our granddaughter a passion for the outdoors, I not only identify God’s specific work we encounter, but I also include the day He spoke it into existence.
Hopefully, this small, yet profound fact, will reinforce the truth about God’s miraculous creation, and help equip our granddaughter and my Sunday school classes to combat world views which steer them away from the Creator. In all probability their pilgrimage will at some point intersect with powerful suggestions on how to respond to the theory of evolution, reality of God, and purpose of their existence. Contrary to my father’s hopeless conviction, they can be armed with the truth that nature displays God’s providential work. And as the apostle Paul states in his letter to the Romans, they will have a (growing) understanding of God’s invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, through what has been made in His creation of the world. (Romans 1:20)