We rambled through the forest, sliding on pine needles and scrambling over granite, heading nowhere except to explore the beauty of the day and the mountains we lived in.
We smelled it before we found it, a mountain laurel bay tree tucked into a small ravine near the base of a towering Ponderosa pine. Arrested by the quiet beauty of this secluded nook we rested and wondered.
Why this beauty hidden away in a place unseen? Could it be that we were the first to find and appreciate it? It was my first taste of a God who created beauty for beauty’s sake. Of a God who maybe, possibly, created this little spot in the knowledge that one day two teenagers would come across it and see Him in the creating.
We lingered, basking in the sweetness of young love and a God who smiles, before packing up our water bottles and climbing back up the mountain, his warm hand helping me over the rough spots, our voices quieted in the knowledge that we had experienced something sacred that afternoon.
I don’t remember where we were that day. There was no track, no trail leading us to that secret place. I don’t know if anyone else stumbled across it before us, or after. But I remember the scent of it, the holy stillness and the sense of being seen there underneath the wooded canopy. The feeling that He who created that spot was smiling at our discovery of it.
That area is burned over now, victim to one of Southern California’s massive wildfires, so no one else will ever share what we experienced that day. But its imprint has remained on my soul. It was there I first caught a glimpse of a God who delights in the creating; whose creation isn’t merely utilitarian, but lavish in design. The God who creates the Ponderosa pine with bark like puzzle pieces and the shiny turquoise throat of a lizard.
This is a God who uses hidden places to display His glory; whose delight isn’t in the size of the audience but in the pleasure of the few who recognize that they are standing on holy ground. This is a God who calls us to join him in creating beauty in the unheralded, overlooked places we find ourselves in; an investment that may never bring us money or acclaim in the world, but will win the quiet praise of Him who entrusts us with his legacy of adorning the hidden places of the world with glory.