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By Tom Boogaart
My house once had a carefully designed garden. Azaleas, rhododendrons, hostas, a dogwood tree, a rose of Sharon bush, and evergreen shrubs, all in appropriate places. When my wife Judy and I bought the house, however, the garden was overgrown and had lost its original power to delight.
One day in early summer, I was cutting the grass on the north side of the house and noticed a violet rhododendron in full bloom but hidden behind the overgrown shrubbery. Intrigued by its hidden beauty, I switched off the lawnmower and moved in to view it more closely. The hue of violet was so gentle that it seemed to envelope the branches like a mist. I saw that each flower was a cluster, and then I saw that each individual flower was horn-shaped and had a unique pointillist design in its throat, each design as compellingly beautiful as any abstract painting hanging in any gallery.
I was stunned by the beauty before me, overwhelmed by the extravagance of it. One week in early June, this rhododendron flowers in a hidden corner of my garden whether anyone enjoys it or not.
In creating and planting the earth, our Gardener God was surely prodigal, filling it with glory, lavishly endowing it with beauty beyond anyone’s capacity to either apprehend or comprehend. I stood there quietly for a long time and basked in this rhododendron’s glory. All was well. I couldn’t bring myself to yank the cord and restart the noisy lawnmower.
This experience of beauty as well as other experiences of the provident nature of the created order make me realize that I live in an adventist world. In the language of the people of Israel, I live in a world that is full of the glory of God. The various intricate and interwoven systems that constitute life on our planet are not merely matter and motion; they are expressions of the glory of God. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and the beauty we enjoy are the gifts of God for the people of God.
God comes to us quietly and in the ordinary activities of life. There are no trumpets announcing God’s advent, no blood moon, no earth convulsing. Day by day, God comes to us so quietly that we often fail to pay attention and sense God’s presence.
While God’s final coming is delayed and every new generation anxiously asks the previous one, “Where is the Lord?” we can say, “Rest assured: the Lord is coming.”
Every breath, every drink, every meal, and every beauty that we experience in life are a pledge and foretaste of the feast of love of which we shall partake when the Lord’s kingdom has fully come.
Tom Boogaart teaches Old Testament at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan.