It’s a Beautiful World!

June 8, 2019

by Maria Fontaine

As a young teen growing up, I lived in a very small town of about 500 people. I attended a school where there were six grades divided into three schoolrooms, with one teacher for each two grades. The teacher would be teaching half of the students while the students in the other grade were sitting quietly, supposedly doing their homework (or maybe learning everything they needed for the next year so they wouldn’t have to study as much). Most everything was lived slowly and calmly; most people went to church, and people generally were nice to each other.

It was a place where my parents felt comfortable letting me ride my bicycle, which I got when I was 12 years old. The only thing they worried about was that I might do something stupid on my bike and hurt myself. They had good reason to think that. Maybe it was a premonition? The first weekend after I got my bike and was learning to ride it, I got very zealous and decided I’d like to have the thrill of riding down the long, steep hill close to my house, just as I’d seen many other kids do.

The church my father pastored was at the top of the hill. At the bottom of the hill and down the road to the right was my house.

Well, that big thrill only lasted until I got to the bottom of the hill and made the right turn onto the intersecting street without having put on the brakes, because I’d forgotten to learn how to use them! The tires skidded on the gravel as I tried to make the turn, and I landed on the ground with my bike on top of me.

Thank the Lord for His mercy that not much damage was done. It took me only a few minutes to get back on my feet, probably because I was so embarrassed that somebody might have seen me. I was able to get up and walk my bike the two or three blocks home, all the while worrying that I had ruined my new bike.

When I reached my home, my parents were out. I looked in the mirror to assess the damage to my face, because, as a young teen who already had a bad case of acne, I was more concerned about that than even about my bike. I was shocked to see a huge, swollen lump the size and shape of an egg rising out of my temple on the right side of my head. I’d never had anything or seen anything like that happen.

Needless to say, I remembered that experience for quite a while since it scared me so! In fact, it was permanently etched in my memory and is one of the clearer experiences I remember to this day. What I got out of it was a good warning for me not to be so reckless and careless and proud of myself, trying to prove that I was capable of handling my new bike without even learning how it operated!

That’s just an aside about life in this little town where I lived. One thing I liked to do, even more than riding my bike, was to walk across a couple of fields behind my house and down a little dirt road that was rarely used, to an old abandoned cemetery.

The cemetery hadn’t been touched or tended to for a very long time. Those buried there were probably long forgotten. The amazing thing was that, even though it seemed untended, it was still beautiful in a wild sort of way. The grass hadn’t been cut in a long time, and it provided a colorful carpet with little violets and other wildflowers under the very majestic trees that shaded the whole cemetery.

I loved to meander from headstone to headstone, looking at the crumbling but still visible names and dates of those who were buried there. It was fun to imagine who they were and how they lived, what it was like in those bygone times, what children did with their time, and if they enjoyed the outdoors and God’s creation like I did.

Probably most of them were forefathers and mothers of the people who lived in my town. Many of the headstones had beautiful Christian sayings and thoughts or Bible verses on them, with a tribute to the one who had gone before. The place had a wonderful spirit that I could feel all around me, and while I never had any “spiritual” experiences, I just knew that I loved it. It was my favorite “go to” place to be alone with Jesus. Many years later, the Lord showed me that some of the departed had ministered to me in different ways as I lay on the grass and prayed or read my Bible or other Christian stories of missionaries or Christian fiction.

My parents weren’t worried about me going off by myself. They knew I was responsible, and they trusted the people in our town. God kept me and protected me, and I never had any problems in that setting.

Another thing that I loved to do was to go with a couple of friends on a “nature walk.” This was not far from our little town—a safe place where we would walk through the woods on the banks of a good-sized stream rippling over the rocks. The birds twittered and chirped in the trees and the little squirrels scampered in front of us as we walked. There were rocks covered in deep green and purple velour-like moss and decaying tree trunks here and there as if God had arranged them just right so that we could sit and enjoy a picnic whenever we wanted to. It was almost like Someone had gone before us and prepared everything the way we would like it to be.

I have always retained my love for the woods and the many kinds of great trees that provide beautiful shade, as well as happy homes for the birds and squirrels. These are always my favorite type of nature scenes! Whenever I’m in a woods like that, I feel at home.

Though I have always felt incapable of articulating my feelings about nature, some have done it fairly well. However, they are never able to fully express the inexpressible things of the Spirit that God has permeated His creation with, such as the magnitude of the love with which He has fashioned everything to illustrate His love for us. Here is a little song that I’m sure you’ve heard that captures a little of that rapturous beauty better than most:

This is my Father’s world,
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world:
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world:
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the Ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world:
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King: let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let earth be glad!1

* * *

When I hear people express awe at the magnificence and grandeur of the majestic mountains and mighty oceans, it makes me want to say, “Yes! And it’s my Father who created all those things!” I also love it when they focus on the loveliness and value of the tiny things He has created, like the leaves, the flowers, and the birds. Here are a few quotes from different people that express what they personally have encountered in God’s creation. The Bible says: “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,in the things that have been made.”2

Nature is the art of God.—Dante Alighieri (1265–1321, poet)

The earth has music for those who listen.—William Shakespeare (1564–1616, playwright)

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.—Lao Tzu (601 BC–531 BC, scholar)

Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.—Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882, poet)

Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say, innocence, with Nature herself.—Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862, writer)

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.—Aristotle (384 BC–322 BC, philosopher)

I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news.—John Muir (1838–1914, naturalist)

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.—John Burroughs (1837–1921, naturalist)

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.—Edward Abbey (1927–1989, essayist)

It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know of wonder and humility.—Rachel Carson (1907–1964, conservationist)

I think it annoys God if you walk by the color purple in a field and don’t notice.—Alice Walker (1944–, writer, novelist)

People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things around us.—Iris Murdoch (1919–1999, novelist and philosopher)

I never really understood the word “loneliness.” As far as I was concerned I was in an orgy with the sky and the ocean, and with nature.—Björk (1965–, singer and songwriter)

The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway.—Michael Pollan (1955–, writer)

Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.—John Muir (1838–1914, naturalist)

Be a loner. That gives you time to wonder, to search for the truth. Have holy curiosity. Make your life worth living.—Albert Einstein (1879–1955, theoretical physicist)

Man is the most insane species. He worships an invisible God and destroys a visible Nature, unaware that this Nature he’s destroying is [a gift from] this God he’s worshiping.—Hubert Reeves (1932–, astrophysicist)

My profession is to be always on the alert to find God in nature, to know his lurking places, to attend all the oratorios, the operas, in nature.—Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862, writer)

A morning glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books.—Walt Whitman (1819–1892, poet and writer)

Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?—David Attenborough (1926–, broadcaster and natural historian)

We still do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us.—Albert Einstein (1879–1955, theoretical physicist)

1 “This Is My Father’s World,” by Maltbie D. Babcock (1901).

2 Romans 1:20 ESV.