The Grace in the World
At the very beginning of Genesis we hear the refrain, “And God saw that it was good.” After each instance of creation, God looks and sees the good made visible. The Hebrew word for good is tov, which may also be translated, beautiful. What God saw in each of His creative acts, in His singing and speaking the deep structures of our world into existence: the light, the land, the sea, the trees, the plants, the seeds, the sun, the stars, and the animals—was beautiful. And when we walk into His world, when we get into nature, we sense that. It’s what John Muir felt, “I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” This in-ness, this encounter with the beautiful in the natural world is a grace, a deep restorative power. And the more time we spend in God’s creation, the more we catch sight of what St. Francis of Assisi saw:
In beautiful things he saw Beauty itself, and...he followed his Beloved everywhere, making from all things a ladder by which he could climb up and embrace him who is utterly desirable.
The great saint, the lover of plants and animals knew a wonderful secret, a secret that we increasingly come to see, even treasure—God’s creation is a divine staircase to a higher life.