As I write this, it’s early morning. The sun has just recently risen, but the windows and blinds are closed against the light and heat. Yesterday was an unusually hot day, even by Southern California standards: the thermometer soared to 114 in the afternoon, and by the time I went to bed at 10 PM, it was still in the high 90s outside.
I knew this was coming. Yesterday morning, I did the grocery shopping early, and gave the plants and trees extra water as a bulwark against the coming heat.
But other than that, I stayed indoors, behind insulated walls, where it was air conditioned and cool.
During COVID, and during hot weather, we may be forced to spend more time than usual cocooned in our homes. We protect ourselves from the elements. We entertain ourselves with electronic screens, hardly noticing when night falls. We may not even rise with the sun, but stumble out of bed to the din of an electronic alarm.
The psalmist could not have imagined the life so many of us lead. But if he could have, he might also have told us that we’re cutting ourselves off from the glory of God.
Here, for example, is how the Common English Bible renders one of the better known psalms:
Heaven is declaring God’s glory;
the sky is proclaiming his handiwork.
One day gushes the news to the next,
and one night informs another what needs to be known.
Of course, there’s no speech, no words—
their voices can’t be heard—
but their sound extends throughout the world;
their words reach the ends of the earth. (Ps 19:1-4a)
Humans down through the ages have marveled at the night sky, have heard it speak into their souls of things too lofty to understand.
The polluting haze of city lights makes it hard to appreciate the full beauty of the stars even on a clear night. But of course, that counts for nothing if, when we look heavenward, all we see is the ceiling.
Or when was the last time we watched the sun rise, or even more, marveled as it climbed from the horizon? Again, the psalmist writes:
God has made a tent in heaven for the sun.
The sun is like a groom
coming out of his honeymoon suite;
like a warrior, it thrills at running its course.
It rises in one end of the sky;
its circuit is complete at the other.
Nothing escapes its heat. (Ps 19:4b-6)
On days like today, the sun’s heat is definitely something to escape! But the psalmist’s point is that the warmth of the sun bathes everything, without prejudice, as it makes its stately march across the sky. No, more than a march: it charges across the sky like an enamored bridegroom or a strong-limbed warrior.
I’m guessing that’s not what you were thinking the last time you looked up at the sun. Yeah. Me neither.
My point is this. We need a transcendent hope, and by definition cannot find it merely in the circumstances of the artificial lives we create for ourselves. The walls we build around us, the walls we hide behind, may also screen us from the silent voices that have been ordained to whisper to us of the glory of God.
So try this: go out on a clear night, ponder the stars, then ponder their Creator. Wake up early and greet the sunrise. I mean greet the sunrise: as Anne Lamott might suggest, say thanks, say wow.
Who knows? If we got into the habit of praising God for the surest and simplest signs of his glory, we might begin to see his glory everywhere.