Dancing in an Empty Theater
The dirt trail curved through the tall grass in front of us. My husband and three kids scampered ahead towards the entrance of the canopy of trees. As I padded behind them, my eyes caught a streak of red amidst the stalks of green off the trail. Poking up between the grass, two beautiful red flowers flashed their petals in the August sun. While my family disappeared through the openings in the woods, I stood transfixed at the couple before me. In a sea of green grasses, these two flowers boasted their vibrant red with beauty and pride.
Since that day, I’ve thought often of those two flowers that arrested my progress on the trail. They remind me of all the plants I’ve found clothed in the splendor of kings, or of the fields I’ve watched emblazoned in oranges and pinks that exult the Creator’s glory. Psalms tells us that the heavens declare the glory of God. We see it through the expansive mountains that teach its listeners of his might, or the trees of the forest who “sing for joy” (Ps. 121:1-2; 96:12). But part of me also wonders how many solitary flowers open their petals to an empty trail. I wonder how many stately trees stretch their limbs up without anybody to see. I wonder how many incredible mountain views stretch across the stage of an empty theater.
The Creator’s glory shines through the plants and the landscape, and extends into the movement of everyone of his animals. Last year my children and I studied the diverse creatures filling the ocean. We learned about the beauties of coral, the mighty size of the whale, and unique kinds of fish. Every day the fish of the sea declare his glory and the beasts of the field teach us of his handiwork (Job 12:7-10). Yet 95% percent of the ocean remains yet to be explored. I wonder how many more fish dart and dive in the darkness. I wonder how many whales nurture their young in silence. I wonder at the elk that darts through the forest without anybody to watch. I think about the striped caterpillar on the stalk of a branch that no child will shriek and marvel at. I wonder at the deep blue indigo bunting who flits from branch to branch in isolation.
While worship peeks from God’s creatures, it can glow bright through his image-bearers. I look across the room at my daughter, curled up against the armrest of the couch. Her knees squeeze towards her chest, supporting the book that has captured her attention. She reads silently, engrossed in the story, as each page turns quietly.
I love seeing the kindness she displays towards her brothers. The light of God’s goodness pierces into the darkness with her sweet encouragement—an “I’m sorry,” and a “let me help.” The love of the body of Christ shines like stars amidst the crooked and the depraved (Phil. 2:15). As his children encourage, serve, and love we press the salt a little deeper into the dirt of this broken earth (Matt. 5:13). Yet, I glance again at my daughter’s face and wonder at all I don’t see. I think about the moments she’s remained patient, that no one ever saw. I wonder about the prayers she’s prayed that I can’t hear. And I wonder at the simple acts of faithfulness of so many in this world lived out in seclusion.
Another day of the same routine, struggles, and prayers leads me back to my own bed. The light turns off as I pull the covers over my body, blocking the drafty air. I kiss my husband goodnight and turn to my side in the darkness. In the quiet room, my head teems with words. They come in phrases and sentences. I twist them around in my head—writing, always writing. The power of a string of words isn’t lost on me. The pages of classic texts, prayerful prose, and moving hymns have wrapped around me in my nights. Their message tips my chin towards the God who holds me. David exclaimed the Lord “put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God” (Ps. 40:3). We partake so often of these songs of the saints throughout history.
But I wonder how many words of beauty have never found their way to be etched on paper. I wonder how many beautiful sonnets have been written in the mind of a mother too busy nursing a child to bother to write. I think of the countless phrases of worship whispered in the heart of the one too overwhelmed or grieved to scribe them into life. I wonder at all the beauty that has existed for none to see.
But of course, there’s always someone. He stands in the theater of all creation. He hears the song that rings out in the solitary. He sees the dance performed alone. He hears the words that never reach our lips. And he delights in the offering.
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