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Season of Mists and Mellow Thoughtfulness

Written by Emily Essex, posted on Monday, September 23, 2019

Creeper on side of Meadow BuildingEvery time I put on my sunglasses, the sun goes behind a cloud.

This fact has never endeared me to my fellow holiday-makers. Sometimes the effect is so immediate that my companions have ordered me straight back inside in the hopes of reversing it.

I know that the world is big and that my simple act of putting on sunglasses is unlikely to affect the weather to such a precise extent. But nevertheless, I sometimes start to wonder.

As we approached the season of Creationtide, a period dedicated to God as Creator and Sustainer of all life, I felt acutely aware of the threads that pull nature together, the flowers and the bees, the rain and the rivers, the intricate dance of life and death in the turning of the seasons. Surely if this one pollen-dusted bee can sustain the life of so many flowers, my simple act of putting on sunglasses could sway the clouds?

Perhaps not. And yet there is a tension between the part of me that feels insignificant and the part that would have me at the very centre of the universe. Not because one is simply right and the other simply wrong  - but because both speak of something profoundly true about what it means for God to be the Creator and Sustainer of all life.

‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted.’ (Matthew 10:29-30)

We are more precious to God than we can possibly imagine. As a painter knows every stroke of his brushwork, and a composer every note of her symphony, so God knows every tiny detail of our lives. There is no doubt that we are, each of us, loved beyond measure. And it is that feeling – that belief that someone finds us to be infinitely precious – that makes us feel as if we are the centre of the Universe.

That is what it means to be created and sustained by God – it is Love that creates us, Love that keeps us. The very fabric of the created world crying out in love.

But that knowledge of our preciousness can quickly become distorted when we forget that we are not the sole focus of God’s love. It is not we that are created, at the expense of everything else; we are part of a tapestry of creation that connects all life, weaves all things together. Nothing I do is without consequence for another part of that tapestry. God’s creation is intertwined with its creator.

It is important to remember that we are loved, but it can become dangerous when we imagine ourselves to be the sole focus. Too much scrutiny and our flaws will become glaringly present; too high a pedestal and we risk it all coming tumbling down. We all fall short of the mark at one time or another, but to imagine those faults as being broadcast across the universe, the front page of every newspaper, is to get our sense of our place in the world out of proportion.

There is a line in Graham Greene’s Monsignor Quixote which I have never forgotten: the Monsignor encounters a man eaten up with guilt for the theft of two brass coffin handles, and after hearing his self-recrimination Father Quixote tells him: “[God] has created a universe – we don’t know how many stars and planets and worlds. You have stolen two brass handles – don’t feel so important.”

That dizzy high pedestal, wind-battered and crumbling, is not where we are in God’s eyes. We are not higher than our station, balanced precariously in favour, we are in exactly the place we were created to inhabit. God sees every hair on our heads, God sees every fleeting desire of our hearts. God sees the whole beautiful, tangled web of the universe and every person in it. And we are all precious in God’s sight.

Setting aside time to reflect on God as Creator and Sustainer is especially important because we need to have a sense of perspective. We need to understand that we are loved in all our tiny-ness, not because we are huge.

The marks we leave on the world may be small, but they are profound. Like the marks we leave on other people’s hearts.

This is particularly relevant when we consider our call to love and care for creation. We know that we are small and that the problems our world is facing are huge by comparison. It would be easy to say that we therefore can’t make a difference.

But that isn’t true. No matter how small our actions they are counted; each small step we take is a real step in the right direction. And the ways in which our actions encourage, challenge, and transform the way other people interact with creation are numerous beyond measure.

Knowing that God is the Creator and Sustainer of all life means knowing our place in the Universe. It means knowing that we are tiny but that our legacy is long-lasting. It means beginning to see the world in all its glorious complex huge-ness and saying with our creator: this is good.