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September 22, 2011
I might have to reconsider Intelligent Design, I said to no one in particular as we drove from Colorado Springs to Denver. We had just passed Castle Rock, one of the natural stone formations. In the foothills of the Rockies, architecturally formed by some ancient cataclysm, it sits atop a mesa, looking too intentional to have just landed there -- which, of course, is what it did. It looks like a city built by human beings. It looks like an Italian hill town. But it's not a group of buildings. Nobody built it. Nobody put it there. It landed there. It's a rock.

By what grace do we know beauty? Of course, there are rocks and trees, a blue sky, an orange sunset -- of course these things exist. But was it necessary that we perceive them as beautiful? I think it was not necessary. Do the animals look at them and marvel? It seems they do not. And yet we do. Our experience of beauty can only be by the sheer grace of God. Our delight benefits only us. It has no other purpose.

Or does it? Our creation story has God entrusting the earth to our care. Like a parent besotted with a child or a lover with the beloved, we are yoked with the earth by our desire to behold it, ensnared by the beauty of nature. Maybe it is necessary that we find it beautiful. We might fail in our stewardship of the earth if we were not constrained to love it. Maybe God needs us to be seduced by beauty in order to ensure our fidelity.

We don't spend much time in nature these days. It seems to me now that I spent hours as a child lying on my back beneath a tree, looking at the sky through the lace of its leaves. We wandered unaccompanied in the woods for hours. I can't imagine my grandchildren doing that. This is too bad. We're shorting ourselves on the beauty for which we are intended to yearn.

Here is Castle Rock. See what I mean?
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