I remember the first time I was overwhelmed by the power of nature. I was outside playing with friends, when suddenly, the familiar alarm blared through the air, only this time, it wasn’t a test. As fast as my small body could run, we headed inside, closed the doors, turns off the lights, and took shelter in the basement. I remember shaking with fear and trying to distract myself with games, only to keeping going back to the windows. I watched the cloudy skies turn from blue to grey and then pitch black. I heard the wind howl, and the sound of rain and thudding objects beating against the house. I don’t know how long it lasted. The wind and rain eventually died out and as we emerged from underground, a sense of dread mixed with awe came over me. Everything was completely still and quiet. While the chaos of objects and branches scattered around were scary enough, it was the sky that was truly terrifying. The blue I was expecting to see was instead bathing the world in an eerie neon green. It was then that the raw, uncontrollable power of nature made me feel incredibly small in the universe. Yet my amazement grew into respect for God and this world He created.
I wonder if David experienced the same paradox of emotions I did as a child when he wrote Psalm 29. In it, we see a poetic and beautiful display of God’s power revealed through storms and natural phenomenons. God is the God of glory who thunders, who’s voice splits the mighty and prized cedars of Lebanon and flashes forth flames of fire. It is a psalm of pure praise and worship that magnifies the God of insurmountable power who is Creator and continues to lord over His creation. It is calling us to take a posture of humility and acknowledge that it is the Lord who sits forever enthroned over the cosmos—not us.
Humility allows us to see the world as God-centered, not human-centered, and creation care is one of the many ways we can “ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name.” If humility encourages a desire to love, worship, and honor God in all that we do, it should also nurture a reverence towards all that He has created. But when it comes to respecting what God has created and the power of nature, frequently, that’s not the case. Without humility and gratitude, creation becomes a disposable resource for exploitation and abuse. Natural forces turn into things we believe can be bent and controlled according to our will, we can become careless in our consumption, make decisions with long term effects based on short-term gratification, and grow numb to how deeply our survival is embedded in the health of the earth.
Instead, when we live with a posture that acknowledges God’s power and lordship over all that has been made, our hearts come to understand the fundamental nature of creation—that all of it exists to glorify God and we have been invited to join creation as it praises God and reflects His glory. We are invited to delight in what He has called “good,” to make wise choices about how to utilize resources, to wonder about the mysteries of the universe, stand in awe at the vast mountains and valleys He spoke into existence, marvel at the beautiful diversity of animals, insects, and plants that cover the ground, seas, and skies, and hold the world as a sacred, tangible display of His love. Ultimately, reverence for God and for His creation cannot be separated, and the way we care for His creation either honors or dishonors His name. The deeper this settles in our hearts, the larger God becomes. It will make us feel small, and challenge our comforts and pride, but like my kid self, it will be a healthy discomfort, because it will place God exactly where He should be—all powerful, forever reigning, and at the center of all things.