My mom used to look up at the mountains of the Olympic National Park as if her own personal proof-text.
How can anyone look up at that and not believe in God?
She’d ask, as we’d drive along, at least on the days when the peaks were in clear view.
They were beautiful, awe-inspiring, and mysterious, but to be honest, I never totally got the link. How is beauty proof of divinity?
I assumed when she asked me these questions, that what my mom actually meant, was that the perfection of these mountains, and the feeling it gave her, had to indicate a God that had designed and created such things, with intention. Created this moment, with intention. I just didn’t see how one proved the other.
And yet, I admit there are times, when I’m driving up and down I-25 and seeing the whole Front Range of the Rockies on display, or when I’m hiking within those Rockies and staring across a valley up until the next incredible peak, or when I catch the sun just right, just finding its place nestled between the jagged rocks – I think to myself exactly what my mom used to ask: What else could describe holiness better than this, here, now?
I don’t know precisely if my mom meant to be asking about God as creator, or God as an expression of divine transcendence – but I have to believe that in both of our understandings we were pointing to an experience of divinity that we felt, there, in the presence of so much beauty, so much grandiosity – these mountains that represent time in a way that we can’t possibly grasp, these places of danger and risk, but also a signal of home, and belonging.
This experience is always available to us – this feeling of being at home, surrounded and even overwhelmed by beauty. Will we have eyes to see, ears to hear? Will we be able to receive this grace that is offering itself to all of us, every day, in this life, here and now?
Max Adolph Kapp (1904-1979) was a minister, theological school professor and dean, and a denominational official. He played a significant role in the education of seminarians and the revitalization of the Universalist Church of America during the period leading up to its consolidation with the American Unitarian Association.