In a cave in Indonesia, hand prints embellish a wall. Child-sized and full grown, compact and stocky, long and graceful, all captured in an earthy-red collage. Thousands of years ago, maybe a family like mine, stretched out their fingers, pressed their palms flat, and painted around each digit, hand, and wrist. When I look at photos of them, I of course, remember pressing my own palm onto paper, fingers stiff and still as I sealed the shape inside a wiggly line of waxy color.
I wish I could place my, now grown, hand over their prints; imagine the warmth their hands held in life, the scars, callouses, and wrinkles. I want to acknowledge what I share with them and with everyone from all of time and every place.
We are makers, giving color, form, and representation to the things we dream up.
Turn on the television, browse social media, and you’ll find makers competing, instructing, and inspiring. Even now, in the midst of a global pandemic, craft stores declare themselves essential and thrive as people weave, stitch, glue, and nail together to help alleviate the feeling that everything may be coming apart.
Making is a soothing motion. It frees the mind from dense and despairing thoughts or expresses pain too heavy to bear, and helps us endure suffering.
It’s also often an act of whimsy, of pure, silly joy.
We produce from new materials, thrilled by a clean canvas, neatly wrapped skein of yarn, crisp yard of fabric, or a bare, brown piece of ground.
We restore and repurpose. When presented a worn piece of furniture, we’re eager to scrape off the old and brush on the new.
We create from paper, wood, metal, toilet tissue rolls, macaroni – nothing is off limits to the innovative, and we’re certainly that.
We carve out nooks, filling them with more supplies than we’ll use in a lifetime and designate these dens of possibility, “makerspaces.”
We love potential, hope, and renewal; are exhilarated by mistakes or failures transformed to beauty. These things are our stories, after all, the stuff we’re made of.
When I make something, I begin by hovering. Like a Bombyliidae – or as it’s more commonly known, a bee fly – suspended over a flower, I am moving but not going anywhere.
I hang, shifting only slightly, thinking about my next move, about color, shape, usefulness, and style. Only when ready do I execute the first cut, cast on the first stitch; only then, do I drink in the sweet pleasure of making.
But also, like the bee fly, who is not really a bee, I’m an imitator, a maker who has been Made, a creator, Created; Imago Dei — in the image of God — a God who hovers and starts with a blank slate:
The earth was formless and empty and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of them. (Genesis 1:2)
A God who begins with new materials:
For I am about to do something new. See I’ve already started! Don’t you see it? I’ll make a pathway through the wilderness.
I’ll create rivers in the dry wasteland.
The wild animals in the fields will thank me, the jackals and the owls too, for giving them water in the desert. Yes. I’ll make rivers in the dry wasteland, so my chosen people can be refreshed. (Isaiah 43:19)
A God who delights in transforming damaged goods into treasures, and deep, deep sorrow into happiness and hope:
To all who mourn in Israel, he'll give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of grief, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they'll be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory. (Isaiah 61:3). But especially it seems, a God who loves to restore the old and worn:
In his kindness God called you to share in his forever glory by means of Jesus. So after you’ve suffered a little while, he’ll restore, support, and strengthen you, and place you on a firm foundation. (1Peter 5:10)
You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you’ll restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth. (Psalm 71:20)
These similarities between his making and mine are, in part, why I believe I’ve been dreamed-up and designed.
Goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, my vision and skills pale in comparison. While I can lift a stone from a creek bed and paint it, I can’t make a stone. No creation of mine will ever breathe. As I said, I’m an imitator. And, unlike God, my making – and yours – can’t always even be called “good.” Our creations indicate something about what we treasure or want, and we don’t always treasure or want the best things.
But, Romans 1 says that God’s creation tells us something about him too. His invisible qualities, his character, are expressed through his making, and his stuff is good, in fact, very good. I never spend time outside without seeing something that reminds me of him, his gospel, or my own walk of faith, and I spend a lot of time outside. It’s easy to surmise, from creation, what matters to God.
Wordlessly, creation pours out evidence of design, and by default, Designer. It displays power, compassion, and intimate knowledge of every creature’s need. These are the things important to him — his glory is for our good.
Winds are his messengers, ruffling our hair, filling our lungs, thrilling and scaring us, grabbing our attention.
Flames are his servants, purifying forest and prairie – nothing can hide from his heat.
Water rushes through ravines reaching all the thirsty creatures. Birds congregate beside it to fluff, sing, and drink their fill. He gives grass for livestock, trees for food and beauty. He lets us garden, reaping good things to eat, to make us happy, soothe our aches and pains. Day and night, it never stops – the provision, the proclamation of the presence of a Maker. It tells us God treasures everything he’s made and that he longs for all of it to be fully alive. (Psalm 104)
According to Scripture, we’re to master creation. But what does that mean? For Christians, as in all things, we’re to be like Christ, so what sort of master is he?
If honest with ourselves, we’re not often motivated by a desire to see creation flourish, but mostly, to sate our own insatiable cravings. Though imitators of one who is love and truth, as with all imitations we’re imperfect and often use our abilities in selfish, destructive ways.
Remember the Bombyliidae? If you’re like me, after you read this, you may be curious and do some research. concluding that every metaphor falls apart when you learn the bee fly is, kind of, ruthless. They hover over bee nests, and with a flick of their abdomens, drop their spawn inside where their offspring devour both the nourishment the bee has set aside and the babies it was meant for. Bee flies, like all of nature, look out for number one. And yes, I believe my metaphor holds.
Sometimes, I’ll write about the ways we’ve distorted our role as caretakers and how we can do better. It ought to be humbling to know we’ve been favored, given the necessary gifts to care for the life that takes care of us. Nature is surely vulnerable to our choices, but arrogance forgets that we are vulnerable too, dependent upon the water, air, and soil; reliant on the tiniest insects.
Wait. What about hiking? I love hiking!
I will write about it. Not a guide to the best trails, no tips about difficulty level, length, or which spots have flushing toilets versus those holes-in-the-ground, but I’ll write about the things I observe, like lichen, sparrows, dirt, grass, feathers, and Bombyliidae. I’ll wax about Sycamores, ravines, dragonflies, and hummingbirds. I’ll indite the virtues of prairies, bats, grasshoppers, tadpoles, and spiders.
A final fyi — I believe God created. I don’t know how, though, so if you’re here for an amalgamation of current scientific theory with the narrative of Scripture, you’re going to be disappointed — or relieved — when it never happens. I love science, I’ll share my limited knowledge of it, but Genesis 1 and 2 don’t discuss photons, cell division, photosynthesis, or the gaseous content of the air, so I won’t ever feel the need to use science to try and “prove” God created. As makers, we like to know how, but I don’t think “how” is the point, not the Bible’s point, anyway. God’s relationship with his creatures, his friendship with us, and our response to him, to all he’s made, seems the point to me and will be my focus.
So, this is my guide, my creationist’s guide to hiking; to how we have – sometimes – stone-cold, bee fly hearts, but by grace, can be dragonflies, escaping our hideous exoskeletons to fly lovely and free. I’ll walk through exhibits of God’s work, tour his makerspace, and think out loud about what it all means — how flora, fauna, and faith connect.
Every created thing tells the story of its Maker, and I’m no exception. I hope you’ll read my stories.
Emerge, rise up, reach up, find warmth, cool rain, Stretch low, deep down into soft, quiet, dark. Find nourishment, grow, expand, Spread Out! One branch, only one, weakens, Wind strengthens, breaks you, just a little at first. Summer comes and you are brave again, feeling forever is yours. Autumn is here -- death tries to hang on, you push it away - for awhile - it floats, rests at your feet. A crack, split, jagged break, In your height, you grow hollow, but you are a home. Fuzzy, feathered babies blink big eyes, warm in the hole left by your suffering, Soon they'll fly because your affliction made room for their life. You fall, over time sink into damp, become loamy earth. You emerge, reach up, rise up, stretch out. New seeds, new green, new life. You nourish, You live always.