While in New York City, it’s hard to not walk around and look up in awe at the tall concrete and steel structures. We see the “wonderful stones” and “beautiful buildings” and attribute it to the work of man. When everything we see is seemingly made by man, it makes us lose sight that God is the ultimate creator. But Jesus says that even these tall structures “will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” Eventually, even the tallest structures crumble, the fanciest temples fall, and just like our mortal bodies, they “come from dust, and to dust all return” (Ecclesiastes 3:20).
St. Patrick’s Cathedral – next to my office on Madison Ave, NYC – March 9th, 2020
Jesus further tells us in Matthew 6:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and thieves do not break in and steal.”
All these treasures on earth are temporary and will never last. When I die, my earthly money will be worth nothing. The house that I build will eventually crumble. Even my relationships will be forgotten. But rather than a Babel-lian pursuit of climbing higher and higher on earth which will ultimately fall, I ought to put my trust on the one thing that is eternal. Paul prays to “our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever” (Galatians 1:5) The glory of any title, wealth, status on earth will eventually be forgotten, but the glory in heaven lasts forever. It’s up to me which I choose.
The sun will set but heavenly glory shines forever – Madison Ave & 51st, NYC – February 19, 2020
Perhaps the higher percentage of Christianity in rural areas compared to urban is in part due to rural folks encountering God’s creation more often. As a farmer spends his day outside plowing and tilling their fields, they see the beauty in the sunset and sunrise. As a carpenter chops down trees for their projects, they hear the cheerfulness of birds chirping and squirrels running. As a hunter tracks down a deer, they see the complexity in the quick wits of even the dumbest doe.
However, all we see in the city is evidence of man’s creation. As we build higher and higher, we continue flexing and pointing to our own power. For city-dwellers, the only reference of a power other than man is the sky. But for those that live in the densest shadows of the concrete jungle, not even the sunlight of God’s creation shines through.
Fog and rain at night – Financial District, NYC – January 17, 2020
The trees on the streets are carefully curated and planted to suit man’s plans (Central Park is a completely man-made park – even the hills and the lakes). The coastline is expanded through man’s dredging and control of the flow of water (Battery Park City is an entire neighborhood built on what used to be the Hudson). The few animals we see – pigeons and rats – are merely pests that stand in the way of man.
Even the trees were planned & planted – Central Park, NYC – April 25, 2020
Social distancing my last day in NYC – Battery Park City, NYC – May 7
Rat spotted – 5 Avenue-Bryant Park Station, NYC – March 11, 2020
While living in NYC I had to remind myself of God’s presence in other ways – going outside for the sunsets, running along the East River, listening to birds in the two trees behind our patio. But as I drove home from NYC through the Appalachians, I realized what I was missing. I was surrounded on both sides by rolling hills and dense forests. I could barely keep my eye on the road as I was just taken aback in awe of my surroundings.
Views while driving on I-40 passing through Tennessee – May 9, 2020
I knew from school and science that there is a probability that everything was there due to chance. But in that moment, all I could think of was how awesome God is in creating this beautiful world. And even evolution fails to fully explain the feeling of awe – rather, awe overwhelms us with a sense of the divine. A study found that experiencing the feeling of awe makes people more likely to associate evolution with structured paths (the work of a creator) as opposed to randomness. But the Psalms has long already captured this finding:
These next few days I’ll be working on giving God glory for what He’s made – the skies, the hills, the flowers, the birds, the bees… Even the color green.
Pray for Brazil. As the country lurches into deepening divisiveness due to politics, Covid cases have surged beyond the capacity of tests, ambulances, and hospital beds. Pray for peace and wisdom to soften the hardened hearts of the political leaders. Pray for support and safety for doctors and nurses on the front lines. Pray for comfort for the families of those dying of the virus.
Praise God for His glory. Look outside. If it’s clear, thank God for the beauty of sunshine. If it’s cloudy, thank God for the clouds that bring life-giving rain.