Saturday, July 23, 2011

Landscapes of love

Landscapes of love

Road trips and landscapes:
Road trips and summer vacation are synonymous for many families. Over the years, our family has made many road trips. We derived numerous benefits from our road trips. We made lifetime memories, found creative solutions to unexpected problems, rediscovered the joys of simple pleasures, experienced new places, and learned new things about the people, and world around us.

Longer road trips exposed us to a variety of unfamiliar landscapes. Recalling some of our road trips, I see in my mind’s eye a diversity of Canadian landscapes.

Lake Louise
Coast off Tofino BC
Louise McEwan photo

A full moon over the snow capped mountains surrounding Lake Louise, the brilliant yellow fields of flowering rapeseed in eastern Saskatchewan, the tide crashing into the craggy coastline off Botanical Beach on Vancouver Island are just three of the memorable landscapes etched in my mind. Each of these landscapes had a unique beauty that touched my heart.

What we see in a landscape is only a fraction of the diversity and life that abounds there. We catch a glimpse of the promise of the landscape. Snow capped mountains hold the promise of life giving waters that will eventually tumble to the sea, and return to the land in the form of the rain that nourishes. The crops in the fields speak of the cooperation between human hands and nature, and hold the promise of grains and oils for food preparation. The diverse life of the ocean lies invisible beneath the waves.

Landscapes reveal something about God:
Landscapes can be spiritually charged environments that provide a glimpse into the nature of God. To the receptive individual, these environments reveal something of the divine personality.

Love is the chief trait of this personality. The evangelist, John, repeatedly defines God as love. Over and over, John reiterates, “God is love,” and reminds us that “whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him” (1 John 4:16).

Landscapes can be symbolic of God’s abundant and sustaining love for humanity. As we view a landscape, we know rather than see, that it supports an amazing array of plants, animals and insects, and that all of these are interconnected. We glimpse God’s sustaining love in the landscape’s ability to sustain its diverse life forms.

We encounter God’s abundant love in our lives, through those things we refer to as blessings. In times when we do not feel blessed, God’s love sustains us through the barrenness of our personal landscape. We know this through faith, even though we may not perceive it at the time.

The variety of landscapes throughout the world speaks of God’s creativity. Mountain peaks, plains, beaches, rain forests, and deserts speak of God’s imagination and artistry. God’s creativity is reflected in human endeavors as successive generations conceive new ideas and bring them to fruition. Human settlements, architecture, the arts, and technology are some of the ways we share in God’s creative imagination.

Landscapes as metaphor for relationship:
Our appreciation of landscapes can be a metaphor for our relationship to God.

 Old Glory - Rossland Range
Photo by Louise McEwan
We might treat this relationship like a landscape on the road trip, viewing it as a source of inspiration for our life, or simply glancing at it as we zoom by. We might stop at the viewpoint, look around, and say “Ah, how beautiful,” snap a photo and then drive off. In these cases, we have briefly seen, but not experienced the landscape. Our encounter with the landscape has been superficial. Or, we might become more engaged with the landscape. We pitch our tent, remain awhile, and experience the promise of the place.

We zoom by God, glancing briefly, when we let the busyness of life take precedence over the activation of our spirituality. God is in the background of our personal landscape; we believe but we do not engage.

Clipart from

When we think about God only on Sunday, it is like stopping at the viewpoint to enjoy a stretch and the scenery. We go to church. We emerge feeling good. We have stretched our souls. But then we fall back into the rhythm of the week, and God is once again in the background of our personal landscape. We have taken the photo, but some time passes before we look at it again.

Photo by Louise McEwan 

Our relationship with God is a landscape full of promise. God invites us to pitch our tent and to put our self in the photo. We can drive by or become part of God’s landscape of love.

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