Riding in the passenger seat while my husband drove, I stared out the window. As we passed a pond, I noticed five or six sets of tail feathers sticking straight up out of the water. The ducks were busy eating whatever delicious goodies they had found under the water, butts pointed skyward, with no idea how undignified they looked to passing humans.
Although I'd seen it before, the sight struck me as funny, and I pointed it out to my family. My kids laughed with me, my husband chuckled, and we enjoyed a short moment of delight at the expense of those oblivious ducks. I thought of the ducks' creator, and wondered for a brief moment whether I should take a more subdued attitude toward God's creation.
Then I realized he might think it was funny too.
When we think of the ways God reveals himself through creation, we usually think somberly of majestic mountains and roaring seas, the reliability of the seasons and the provision of crops. We think of the detail in the tiniest flower, the mysteries of gestation and birth. When we think of an appropriate response to creation, we think of standing on mountain peaks, overlooking the ocean, lifting our arms in wonder. Or maybe sitting around a campfire in the woods or in the shade of an old tree in the park, singing songs of praise. We don't think much about laughter.
But much of what God has made is inherently funny, ridiculous, and infused with sheer delight. Consider the humor in a penguin's waddle. The adorable fluff of a baby chick, a bear scratching its back on a tree, monkeys who pick bugs out of each other's hair. Puppies that spend hours playing, fall asleep wherever they land, then wake and start playing again. The unbelievable combination of traits in the platypus, which European scientists actually believed was an elaborate hoax when they first encountered it in 1798.
It's no accident that the creatures in this world appear and behave as they do, just as we ourselves are not accidents. When my dog tears around the yard at full gallop with a ball in her mouth, daring us to try to catch her, she is celebrating the way God made her. When we laugh and share in her delight, we are celebrating as well.
Perhaps an arresting sense of awe is not the only appropriate way to express our appreciation of what God has made. Our laughter and "aww" can be forms of worship too. Simply noticing and attributing God's works to him is an act of worship. And I believe he is honored in our delight.
The biblical beauty of creation
God is completely aware of the creatures he has made and their characteristics; he knows them intimately. Two chapters in the book of Job demonstrate how much he expects these creatures to inspire us to worship him.
Much of this book of the Bible is filled with Job's protests and his friends' speeches, basically questioning and putting forth theories about why God has allowed tremendous suffering to fall on Job. Then toward the end of the book, God answers with a challenge for Job. He puts Job in his place by reminding him of his powerful and unmatched creative work. His challenge begins, "Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? … Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?"(Job 38:2–4).
He follows this intimidating question with a series of more questions about specific aspects of his creation, including several wild animals: "Do you know when the wild goats give birth? Have you watched as deer are born in the wild? Do you know how many months they carry their young? Are you aware of the time of their delivery? They crouch down to give birth to their young and deliver their offspring. Their young grow up in the open fields, then leave home and never return" (Job 39:1–4).
He speaks of the wild donkey, which "hates the noise of the city and has no driver to shout at it" (39:7). The wild ox that won't "consent to being tamed" (39:9). "The ostrich flaps her wings grandly, but they are no match for the feathers of the stork" (39:13). "She is harsh toward her young," God says, "as if they were not her own. She doesn't care if they die. For God has deprived her of wisdom. He has given her no understanding. But whenever she jumps up to run, she passes the swiftest horse with its rider" (39:16–18). He speaks of the horse as well: "Did you give it the ability to leap like a locust? Its majestic snorting is terrifying! It paws the earth and rejoices in its strength when it charges out to battle" (39:20–21). Finally the eagle: "It lives on the cliffs, making its home on a distant, rocky crag. From there it hunts its prey, keeping watch with piercing eyes. Its young gulp down blood. Where there's a carcass, there you'll find it" (39:28–30).
God encourages Job to notice, along with him, what he has made; to delight in his creatures as he does: and to stand back in amazement not at the creations but at their creator. He himself has celebrated his creation from the very beginning, when he pronounced it all "very good!" (Genesis 1:31). He delights in what he has made, and he wants us to see these works of art as evidence of his greatness.
God's glory in creation
When we notice the details in God's creation—finding joy in what he has made—we feel his pleasure. We share in his delight. Imagine Jesus riding on a donkey into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-6) and chuckling over that donkey he had made, so capable of giving him a ride when he needed it. He knew and loved that very donkey! Imagine him looking at the fig trees and assessing their productivity at a glance, intimately familiar with all their inner workings. Looking at flocks of sheep, seeing individual creatures, and loving their fluffy selves.
As a writer, I love it when people appreciate what I create. And the more detailed their appreciation, the more satisfying my work. When someone notices that I put thought behind my choice of words, that I came up with a particularly clever title, or that something I intended to be funny actually made them laugh, I find meaning in what I do. I also feel a stronger connection to that person, who now understands me better because they understand my work.
We delight in what we have made when we know it's good—meals, books, songs, outfits, drawings, computer programs. We want others to see what we've created and appreciate it as much as we do. We want them to enjoy it, and when they do, we want to make more. God knows his creation is good—and not just awe-inspiring, but also delightful and surprising. He has given us an incredible gift—the ability to appreciate it with him.
Rather than simply admire from afar, or take a passing notice of the quirky traits in the world around you, consider how you might engage in an active appreciation of creation with God. In prayer, share your thoughts on the creatures who cross your path. Not only your sense of awe at the terrible lion or the shark's powerful teeth, but also your amusement over a serious-minded squirrel whose cheeks are full of nuts. He probably thinks it's funny too.