“Nature is the art of God.” -Dante Alighieri
Last year, my brother and I travelled to Boone, North Carolina for his birthday. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to make a temporary escape from the world. It was my hope that this sojourn to the mountains would be a place of re-centering, that when human institutions and intuition continue to wrestle and fall short, that I might find a moment of peace and clarity. The journey there was particularly beautiful, given the bursting colors of autumn throughout the road to Boone.
One of the places we visited was Grandfather Mountain, one of the tallest peaks East of the Mississippi. It was a place I had longed to go to for years, and with limited options due to COVID, it made for a comparatively safe venue. The trip up the mountain was beautiful, as with the ascent came a beautiful view of the Carolina landscape. Arriving at the top, we were greeted with ripping wins that gave our COVID masks an extra use in helping to keep our faces warm.
Part of the Grandfather Mountain experience is walking along the Mile High Bridge, which is measured as being one mile above sea level. While the bridge was held by multiple cables, the winds still made the bridge feel uneasy while walking across. Making it to the other side, I continued a little further, working my way through the ice-cold winds ripping at my face. I briefly wondered if bearing the winds that high up was worth it. I was answered not with words, but with miles of natural scenery.
Upon establishing a good place to stand, I scoped around as the winds continued to rage about me. Miles of autumn blue skies complimented the vast landscape of miles of mountain ranges that could be seen from the peak. I was aghast at the vast beauty my eyes attempted to process in a cold that was now made worth it in seeing the vastness of creation. It was as if the winds gave a slight pause to allow creation to speak what words could not, as my eyes surveyed miles of majesty.
This moment of creation speaking through the winds reminded me of 1 Kings 19:1-18, where after a great victory, Elijah finds himself on the run. While God had prevailed against the prophets of Baal, Jezebel threatened that no matter what, she would deal with Elijah. In anguish, Elijah decided to flee. Discouraged, Elijah sojourned to Mount Horeb, where God had once given the Ten Commandments to Moses. When the Word of God came to Elijah, from the depths of his broken spirit spoke words of loss, that the Israelites had turned away, and he was the only one left.
God told Elijah to wait there for him to speak. We are told that a great wind tore through mountains, that an earthquake occurred, and a great fire raged, but the Lord was not present in any of these displays of nature’s power. Instead, it would be through a whisper that the omnipresent Creator would speak to his prophet. Despite these great displays of power, and even with the softness of a whisper, the words of the Lord could not shake Elijah from this sense that all was lost. Instead, God would command him to go forth and anoint a successor.
How many of us are like Elijah, perhaps discouraged and feeling rejected? How many of us went from a great victory to a great trial? Perhaps God has tried to speak to us, but we have lacked the capacity to listen. The beauty of God is that he can speak in various ways. While he sometimes uses powerful means to express his Word, there are times where he may move with a whisper. Perhaps not in the sense of what we hear as a whisper, but perhaps a sense where, when removed from distractions, God speaks something to us that we have needed, a word of hope or encouragement.
This scene upon the mountain for me felt like such a moment. While the wind was rushing and roaring, and I crouched in hopes that I would not blow off the mountain, that removed from distractions, I could for a second feel God speak through his creation. That he is a God of beauty and majesty, and that even the forces of nature are subjected to him. When God speaks, he will do so in a manner and using the means he deems necessary to speak to us. Whether with a burning bush or a whisper, God will establish his majesty when we are in his presence.
This trip, which was to celebrate my brother’s birthday, also became an opportunity to celebrate one of God’s gifts, the majesty of his nature. When we are weary, when we find ourselves without hope, or when we fall from the peak to the valley, God will reestablish us. Scaling Grandfather Mountain gave for me words I could never conjure for myself for a sermon. God’s very creation speaks for us great words of restoration and hope, that compared to our perceived stresses, that the vastness of God and his creation far extend any temporary struggles that may overwhelm us.
Written By: Cody Marks