I see God in trees.
I see our Creator in sunsets and flowers and children’s eyes. I see this Universal Spirit in beauty all around me. When I watch clouds or stars, I see creative intent which matches the most breathtaking art of man. And when I see and feel a thunderstorm racing toward me across a valley, I feel connected to all of nature.
In those moments of intense joy at the experience of this world, I feel love. Something pours through me like “waves of liquid love,” in the memorable phrase of 19th century evangelist Charles Finney when he described his first encounter with God.
I don’t care what you call it. I call it God. I call it my Creator. You might call it Universal Spirit or just Nature. Whatever your theology or belief, almost everyone has experienced this deep joy at some point. But most of us quickly leave the experience behind.
We forget that we can find more happiness in the joy of a tree or a sunset than we will ever find in the pursuit of cold and soulless physical pleasures alone.
People everywhere seem to be in a mad rush to have fun, but the things they do to “have fun” seem to leave them dissatisfied and constantly searching for something more. They throw themselves into hedonistic frenzies — jumping from one artificial high to the next. They use various recreational drugs — chiefly alcohol — to deaden their senses and their thoughts so they can briefly be “free” to do things which they will later regret.
So many of the people I know act as though another drunken weekend or another wild spree of sex or another expensive vacation or another bit of power or prestige will finally make them happy.
On their own, there’s nothing wrong with most of the things they want to do. There’s nothing wrong with most forms of pleasure. Sex can be the most intimate thing two people ever enjoy, something like a spiritual experience, in the right context. Vacations can be wonderful and meaningful. Even power and prestige can be useful.
But none of those things will bring a human long-lasting happiness.
The things that bring real happiness are those things which connect us to those we love and to the reality of Nature and its God.
When I experience joy, I experience God.
And that kind of joy doesn’t come from the frenzied pursuit of happiness through physical pleasures. Happiness is “an inside job,” because that’s where we experience joy.
The tree you see above is in my front yard. It’s massive and it gives me some understanding of why the Druids might have worshipped trees — or at least the spirit of the trees. When I walk out of my house, I’m always confronted with this beauty and majesty — and I can’t help but experience just a touch of joy — an actual, physical feeling — in the heart beating in my chest.
But I’m prone to forget that joy is all around me, ready for me to experience it when I want. Instead, I focus so many times on the driver I’m angry with on the highway. I focus on the perceived flaws in others, especially in how they treat me, of course. I focus on all the things I don’t yet have in my life.
And when I do that, I forget about joy — and I lose sight of who God is.
There’s so much joy and beauty and wonder in this world. There are people who want to share that joy with us — people who want to give us love and experience connection with us. But we so often isolate ourselves from the right people, make choices that leave us empty and cold, and pursue paths toward carnal pleasures alone.
The Spirit I know as God is in every part of this universe. I see Him in galaxies and in microscopic quantum fields of probability and in the wonder of life’s constant creation and re-creation.
I can experience more joy — and more of God — in the trees of my front yard than I’ll ever find in pursuing pleasure. I just have to remember to open my eyes and soften my heart.