All of us have been mesmerized by the glory of a sunset or the beauty of the freshly fallen snow across a barren landscape. Yet, as beautiful as nature can be, we are still unsatisfied. There should be something more.
C.S. Lewis speaks to this troubling disparity in Weight of Glory:
We do not want merely to see beauty, though…. We want something else which can hardly be put into words-to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it…. At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Someday, God willing, we shall get in.
As Christians who live in the age of redemption, we realize that the beauty we see in God’s creation is a reflection of his glory. As a great painting reflects the glory of the master artist who painted it, even the fallen creation still reflects the glory of the Creator of all things.
Rick Howe writes in his book, Rivers of Delight, that,
Beauty and its pleasure are God’s gifts to enrich our lives. Beauty is the expression of the extravagant benevolence of our Creator.
What we see and feel are only a taste of the way things could be. We await the restoration of all things at the end of this age. We wait to truly embrace the way things are supposed to be.
But even in this fallen world, creation’s chorus still calls out to us as voiced by the hymn writer Henry van Dyke over a 100 years ago:
Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began.
Living within the tension of this “already/not yet” of redemption and restoration also has significant implications for our work as well.
Made in God’s image, we are to create through our work things from the raw material he has given us. This is why J.R.R Tolkien called man a sub-creator. Tolkien would also rightly state that one of the ways man glorifies God is through the sub-creation of works that echo the true creations of God. This is one of the ideas expressed in Tolkien’s short story, Leaf by Niggle.
While our work has been redeemed, it awaits the second coming of Christ to be restored.
Like our appreciation of nature’s beauty, we can enjoy our work while realizing it will never be perfect in this current realm.
Acknowledging that our work can never be perfect does not give us a pass. God still expects us to work as hard as we can to do the best at whatever he has called us to do.
My wife and I recently moved into a new house, and I am sometimes overwhelmed by all the things that still need to be done and the things I wish we had done differently. I thought, “I am never going to get this house right.”
Tolkien’s story made me realize that my perfect house, like Niggle’s tree, is awaiting me in the new earth in the age of restoration. The house that I have built here is only a taste of the blessing that God has in store. Meanwhile, I still need to work as hard as I can to finish the things that are not finished and try to make the house the best it can be.
God wants the work of our hands to bring about flourishing that glorifies him and serves the common good in the here and now. Although we will be blessed in this life as we obediently work toward this end, we wait for the ultimate blessing, shalom, with patience.