On airplanes, I dread the conversation with the person who finds out I am a minister and wants to use the flight time to explain to me that he is “spiritual but not religious.” Such a person will always share this as if it is some kind of daring insight, unique to him, bold in its rebellion against the religious status quo.
Next thing you know, he’s telling me that he finds God in the sunsets. These people always find God in the sunsets. And in walks on the beach. Sometimes I think these people never leave the beach or the mountains, what with all the communing with God they do on hilltops, hiking trails and . . . did I mention the beach at sunset yet?
Like people who go to church don’t see God in the sunset!
This is the time of year when I ordinarily wax poetic about the sunsets on Lake Michigan. Last year I wrote something on my blog about sunsets being “the best glimpse of heaven we’re going to get this side of glory.”
Or something like that. I’m not even sure what that means.
I do like sunsets, though. And I especially like them over Lake Michigan. And I think there is something in the beauty of them that alerts us to a thing greater than ourselves, a creator.
I like it that at this time of year – on vacation, with family and friends – we’ll suddenly leave the board game or shut off the DVD player or put down the novel and run to the deck to watch the sun set. We’ll get quiet for a few minutes, as quiet as any church, and just watch, before walking slowly back to whatever we were doing.
We’ve seen it all before of course – many times – but there we’ll stand taking it all in one more time, as though we can never get enough.
And of course the truth is, we can’t.
But what is it that we can’t get enough of? I’m thinking – and Lillian Daniel, one of my favorite preachers, has started me thinking about this – that maybe more can be said. Yes, those leisurely summer evenings when we take time to watch a sunset over Lake Michigan are wonderful and – for someone like me – deeply spiritual, but isn’t there something more that could be said, that should be said?
Those of us – and there are more of us than you might think – who see the significance of a sunset could be prodded to see things greater than ourselves in other places. If we can see evidence of a creator in a sunset, couldn’t we learn to see evidence in … well, that’s just it, isn’t it? Couldn’t we learn to see evidence for the creator just about everywhere?
I’m working at it. A lot of the time. Sometimes it’s easy. The beach, yes. The mountains, of course. If I could golf, I’d even see God there, I’m sure of it. But what I’m working at these days is seeing God in unlikely places – at committee meetings (where I spend a lot of my time), in difficult conversations, in moments of conflict and pain.
I have to remind myself to do it, but when I do, I’m often pleasantly surprised.
“Where is God right now, in this situation, with these people?” If you see evidence of the creator in sunsets, in the mountains, and in those places where it’s relatively easy to do so, could you begin – with a little effort – to notice God in other places? In the least likely places?