Last summer, my daughter Brianne and I took a 5000 mile road trip: Grand Canyon, Santa Fe, Hannibal, Missouri (for the 100th anniversary of Mark Twain’s passing), Chicago…and back again.
The visit to the Grand Canyon set the stage for the rest of the trip. You’ve probably been there. Bri and I began our visit with a fossil hike led by a geologist called Ranger Mike. There on the limestone ground of the south rim, we found dozens of ocean fossils: coral, sponges, clams…Ranger Mike informed us that 250 million years ago this land was covered by what is now the Pacific Ocean, which left these behind when it receded. When the Colorado River, with the help of the shifting of the tectonic plates, carved out this stunning space, it uncovered these fossils…but not just one layer. Six separate layers of ocean fossils are lodged in the canyon limestone, suggesting six different historical epochs during which the ocean covered this land.
The scale and grandeur of the Canyon put our short lives in perspective. I was struck by the artistry of God: infinite patience, exquisite textures, creativity beyond imagination. And this eternal Artist has invited us, tiny ones that we are, to join him as sub-creators, apprentices in His grand creative project.
Bri and I saw this human sub-creativity in Georgia O’Keefe’s Santa Fe paintings inspired by the open spaces of northern New Mexico. We saw it in Marc Chagall’s stained glass “America Windows” at the Art Institute of Chicago and in that city’s extraordinary architecture (like the gothic flying buttresses on top of the Tribune tower). We saw it in Mark Twain’s stories and in the exhibits at the Field Museum.
In spite of the many ways in which we have botched the job and created ugliness instead of beauty, God’s redemptive work continues in us and through us. Whatever our particular calling, we are sub-creators, junior partners, like children who emulate their parents’ projects and experience their parents’ delight and passion.
This, I think, captures something of our journey as Vanguard University professors who integrate faith, learning, and life…We have been called into God’s great artistic and redemptive project. His project has a billion facets, all centered in Christ, and our discipline has taken us deep into one or more of those facets. We join, in our own small way, in that creative project and, in turn, invite our students to join us, equipping them for their lives as sub-creators. What beauty. What grace.