I wrote this piece for a church magazine way back in May but I have had so many people commenting on it I thought it might be worth posting here for a wider readership.
As I write this we are enjoying the most glorious bank holiday Monday weather, which has apparently broken all records? I spent the early part of today with family on a trip down the Wye valley and though i know the valley well it seems that these weather conditions have brought qualities of colour which add spectacularly to the natural beauty of this area; rich green pastures flecked with golden buttercups, bold blue bells and milky white cow parsley; the glistening umber thread of the river wye winding its way down to the severn estuary and all set against a backdrop of cloudless azure. On days like this nature in all its glory is breathtaking and awe inspiring all at once and makes me want to cry out with the psalmist ‘The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.’
Back at home this, enjoying a chilled drink on the patio as the afternoon cools towards evening I notice movement in a mound of soil in the garden, on closer inspection i see an army of ants going about their business with seemingly great purpose and determination. I find I am less inclined to wax lyrical about this feat of nature and hymns of praise spring less readily to mind as I watch the ants march across the patio towards me. Thank goodness then for the very gifted Isaac Watts, whos hymns we love and whose prose and poetry show us the divine mystery of God even in the most insignificant of creatures. In a piece entitled ‘Meditation on the First of May’ he writes….
‘What an exquisite world of wonders is complicated even in the body of every little insect – an ant, a gnat a mite, that is scarce visible to the naked eye. Admirable engines! which a whole academy of philosophers cold never contrive – which the nation of poets has neither art nor colours to describe – nor has a world of mechanics skill enough to frame the plainest or coarsest of them. Their nerves, their muscles and the minute atoms which compose the fluids fit to run in the little channels of their veins, escape the notice of the most sagacious mathematician, with all his aid of glasses. The active powers and curiosity of human nature are limited on their pursuit and must be content to lie down in ignorance.
It is a sublime and constant triumph over all the intellectual powers of man which the great God maintains every moment in the inimitable works of nature – in these impenetrable recesses and mysteries of divine art.’
So as spring unfolds into summer I pray that you might glimpse the glorious divine mystery pulsing through all of life and nature in abundance, a infinite generosity whose wisdom and grace seems to know no bounds.
Isaac Watts, Meditation on the First of May: The Lion Christian Meditation Collection © Hannah Ward and Jennifer Wild. Lion publishing PLC 1998