The Distraction of Skyscrapers and the Secret of the Trees

“Be clearly aware of the stars and infinity on high. Then life seems almost enchanted after all.” ― Vincent Van Gogh

We sing, “Our God is an awesome God…” along with other songs and hymns that declare God’s majesty and power, but while we cloud the air with noise, our hearts are drained. They are empty and void of awe. Instead of pausing to meditate upon this awesome God, we are mesmerized by colored lights on the stage and join in the fervor of the crowd― but our hearts are drained. They are emptied of awe.

“By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas; the one who by his strength established the mountains, being girded with might; who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs…” Psalm 65:5-8 ESV

I grew up in a crowded Brooklyn neighborhood as a child and spent most of my life living in different areas of NYC, the city that never sleeps. At any hour, day or night, there is always a peddler peddling, a jogger jogging, a bum bumming, cars honking, a boisterous round of youthful laughter, chatter from some patio high above, and down below the dimly lit bars filling the crisp night air with off-tune karaoke. I love the liveliness of the city, but with so much going on, there are not many corners of town left where one can retreat and enjoy the purity of nature… Unless Central Park and the gray-tinged Hudson River are enough to satisfy your craving for the great outdoors. To be honest, until I moved out of the city, to a strange faraway land, I only had an obscure understanding of what it meant to get away and just be with you and your Maker.

I’ve visited a good share of great cities in the U.S. and abroad, and they are usually in some away or another an epicenter of culture, as well as the prime location for prestigious universities. Knowledge, power, and money―most people come to the city to find one or more of these. Tourists flock to see the skyscrapers and the beautiful buildings, just as the disciples did at Jerusalem (Mark 13:1), pointing and gawking at the great works done by the hands of man. There is something about mankind, that after we’ve been settled for awhile and done a few big things we start getting ahead of ourselves. We call our findings Science, and Science answers all our questions. We know how to explain where we came from. We know lots of things. Like how to add 2+2, like how babies are made, how to cook a carb free alfredo dinner, how to build lots and lots of important, shiny things. With all this knowing, our hearts begin to drain. Because even with all the books amassed on earth, there is no cure for death, no cure for poverty, no cure for corruption… The world is still full of fear. There is no man-made answer that can make us immortal. In the meanwhile, we have stuffed our heads with knowledge and fear, and emptied our hearts of awe.

Awe is “an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime”(Merriam-Webster Dictionary). I can personally admit that this feeling is not one that is a part of my day-to-day life… even as a Christian. I, too, am guilty. I usually spend my time managing my schedule, watching a good TV show, dazzling at things to buy, thinking of fun activities to do with my husband, working, or studying. The funny thing is that most of these things are good things, some are even essential. But in the end they are all distractions. All of these things are colored lights on the stage, while we are straying from the divine line that draws us back to the basics. We are emptied of awe.

The strange and faraway land I mentioned before is probably not so strange after all, but it was quite a culture shock to this city-girl. I live with my husband in Springfield, Missouri. It is a much smaller city (about 160,000 in population). Take a thirty minute drive in any direction and you will find yourself immersed in green country side with lakes and caverns at every exit, and miles and miles of thick, wooded hills. Here, people will slow down, and let you turn into the lane with a smile and nod. My husband is amazed every time!

You cannot deny it. There is something about being in nature that makes you vastly more aware of God. Psalms 19:1-6 so perfectly describes the relationship between God and nature:

 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The Bible says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). The NASB version says, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” If you find yourself distracted, and distanced from God, the Bible has given us a pretty straight-forward answer. Take after Jesus himself. Luke 5:16 says, “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness to pray.” Jesus, our compassionate, people-loving Jesus, knew that in order to keep himself connected with the Father, He still needed to withdraw from time to time from the neediness of his disciples, the hunger of the poor, and the weeping of the lost. These things, while they call, they never quiet. They are important, but if they are constant, they can distract. Is your heart drained of that awe you once had of your great Heavenly Father? Take after Jesus and get away. Find your place of solace.

Perhaps as you take in the view of the painted sunrise castings its colorful beams over those hills, a gentle breeze finds you and brings word that all of this beauty exists without having anything to do with it. The multitudes of trees grow, but it is not your hand that guides them heavenward. The sun will set and rise again to run its course with no concern of your approval or disapproval. It sits close enough to darken our skin in the heated summer, but knows the boundary set for it so that it does not destroy us, but instead sustains our life. Is this not a wonder? Is this not amazing? When you find that moment for yourself, you will find yourself closer to God, in awe.

2 thoughts on “The Distraction of Skyscrapers and the Secret of the Trees

  1. Thanks for this sketch of what life is like with and without AWE!

    I am proud of this writer!! Anyone who reads it will want to “Come apart and rest awhile”! I want everyone I know to read it!!

    • Aww, thanks, Carla! You have always been an encouragement to me to write and express through words and music. I was actually writing today in a small notebook that you gave me last year 🙂


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