Had you asked me last week where Craddock is, I would have told you it was somewhere along the coast of South Africa. Most likely in Cape Town. I would have told you Colesburg was near Kimberly, Port Elizabeth was near Cape Town, and there is no way that a place is actually called Daggaboer (for the rest of you, translated, that means weed-farmer)! Basically, my South African geography – considering I grew up here – is atrocious. Clearly, my understanding of South African terrain and fauna is equally horrendous…
A few days ago we did the long-haul drive from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth. To be completely honest, I slept through half of it… but I was absolutely astounded by two things: first, how little I know of my own country’s geography, and second, how vast an expanse the African plains are. I was agog at the immensity of the plains – or shall I say veld – that we drove past! Land that just goes on for hours – untouched and raw with African savagery.
The thing about Africa, you must understand, is that nothing is really pretty. Beautiful, yes! But not pretty. Everything has an almost harsh undertone that stands out. There is a predatory feel to the most innocuous of areas. There is a beautiful savagery to the plains, forests, and ocean. Here, in this diverse and sprawling country, everything is a wonder – and everything harbours the potential to destroy.
The ocean has a majesty that takes the breath from your lungs, throws it to the wind and then twists your heart with it as it spirals in awesome abandon. It begs you to grasp it, to embrace it, to revel in it. Yet it is a fearsome foe to those who don’t exercise caution. We don’t even know half of what lurks in the ocean depths, but we know that there is danger. And plenty of it.
Each day most of South Africa wakes up to smile at the sun and marvel at the blue skies. And yet each day has the potential to burn, to bring cancer, to scorch plants, to devastate lands. It is a beautiful savagery.
It makes me wonder at God. I know God to be majestic. I know He is beautiful and splendid and marvellous. But I also know God to be mighty and strong, He is an “all-consuming fire”. This is the God that I serve.
People always say that in the midst of untouched nature, they find a brighter glimpse of God. Yesterday as we drove, that is what I felt. Today, as I looked down the embankment at the sea, I felt it again. The danger in the splendour and the savagery in the beauty that was made so clear to me in nature, is the same wonder that is found in their creator.
When last did we stand in awe of His beauty, or fall to our knees and beg mercy from His wrath? Maybe it’s time we rethink our perspectives and give God the awe and respect we’re so willing to give to the wilderness of the African landscape.