Sleeping Bear Dunes

“Mom, did God make all this stuff?”

My five-year-old and I were standing on the shore of Lake Michigan this week, looking out over the blue, blue water toward North and South Manitou Islands. To our left rose the yellow, towering sand bluff so famous in Michigan legend. To our right, the emerald shoreline of Sleeping Bear Bay curved in on itself before stretching away to Pyramid Point. Above our heads the sky glowed brilliantly clear, with only an occasional cloud dragging patches of deep green through the water beneath it. The scene took my breath clean away.

“Yes, honey, God made all of it.”

“Wow.”

With that one word, my son captured the wonder, the amazement, the humbleness I felt as we stood on that sandy beach. Our world is filled with such places; mountain valleys, harsh deserts, waterfalls, tundra, quiet forest glades. It stretches my mind to its limits and beyond to consider all the beauty God has created. And I’m absolutely confounded by all the ways we’ve invented to explain it away.

Some, like the old Indian legend of Mishe-Mokwa and her two bear cubs, I dearly love for their story and creativity. Who doesn’t fight a silly tear when the mother bear drives her babies into the lake to escape the forest fire in Wisconsin only to have them drown a few miles from the Michigan shore? Who doesn’t admire her loyalty when she sets herself down on the sandy shore and waits for them until the sand of years covers her up? Who doesn’t rejoice when the Great Spirit raises two islands as a memorial to the cubs’ courage? It’s a beautiful, touching work of fiction that has become part of our Michigan identity. But I don’t know one person who really believes it.

The Big Bang story, on the other hand, has followers so dedicated they’ve passed laws to keep all other ideas out of our schools. It’s simply another legend – a modern one – and not nearly as appealing as the Indians’. I wonder if, in three hundred years, anyone will still believe it.

Intelligent Design hits closer, but it still falls far short of the truth. God has fashioned a huge, beautiful world for us to enjoy. He’s proclaimed his majesty in the heavens. He’s announced his goodness in the seasons. He’s displayed his creativity in the mountains, the forests, the tundra, the Michigan lakeshore. Paul tells us, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse (Rom. 1:20).” God has shown himself to us through his creation, and we keep missing it.

But this week, as I stood on that golden shore with the sun pouring down and the sand crunching under my feet, with a few Petosky stones jiggling in my pocket and my son’s hand warm in mine, God’s image was all too plain. And like my son, the only thing I could think to say was:

“Wow!”

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