In a World of Speech

Snow is the humblest weather.

I have the quiet joy of watching it right now, during my favorite time of the day: dawn. The latest nor’easter has shouldered its way onto the east coast, throwing its heavy belly over New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and—where I am now—the suburbs of Pennsylvania. In the soft, blue-grey light of the morning, the snow is falling.

Snow is humble, to me, because of how it comes to us and what it does to the world around us. It does not come with the drum beat or splattering voice of rain; it does not come with a whistle as the wind. It just … falls, pirouetting and turning in the atmosphere before laying itself down on the earth, covering what is already here, conforming to the shapes it settles on.

As I stare at it outside the window, my mouth sits open in wonder. I can hear the thud of my heartbeat at the back of my throat, marking the constancy of my own life and mirroring the stability of the world outside. That stability, of course, has an origin and anchor: the speech of God.

I have written numerous times about the governance of God’s speech, following the well-trodden path of my friend and teacher, Vern Poythress. I do not think I will every stop writing about it. It is too rich, too mysterious, too marvelous to go unnoticed. I find myself returning to the truth of God’s governing speech almost every day, as a child returns to the top of a snow-covered hill with his sled, never tiring of the ride.

You see, the most gripping thing to me about living in a world of God’s speech—a world that was created, sustained, and finds its telos in that speech—is very simple: what we see around us is what is said. The world is what God spoke, speaks, and will speak. It is not the cold and impersonal gathering of elements, not the mere existence of matter in motion. The world, at base, is not elements; it is syllables—a rhythm of God’s uttered work, with a mysterious meter in which we are all caught up, forgetting that everything we do, think, and say happens in the context of someone else’s dialogue: God’s dialogue—or perhaps better, God’s trialogue. We live and move and have our being in divine speech.

Looking at the snow this morning is a wonderful reminder of that. In a few hours, I will pick up my shovel, zip up my jacket, and head out into a quiet, whitening world. Standing in the midst of the cascading snow will help me see that I am surrounded by what God is saying, by what he has spoken. I am not just an observer of God’s world; I am part of the discourse.

Perhaps this sounds hopelessly abstract to you—the prattle of a poet’s heart. But remember this: the world is God’s and the fullness thereof (Ps. 24:1; 1 Cor. 10:26). The snow comes from his storehouses (Job 38:22) and falls at his bidding (Job 37:6). The world in which we live is not an abstract thing; it is the spoken and verbally sustained environment for the display of God’s character. Our world is ever a word about God himself.

Maybe that’s why I am mesmerized by the snow. The sense of metaphorical humility that I find here is a reflection of the greatest humility: the humility of God in creating, sustaining, and redeeming the world; the humility of the Son of God, who took on flesh all while remaining immutably divine and absolute, bending down to peer into the hearts of men and perform his silent spiritual surgery, giving us new hearts, so that we could look at the snow, and see not just the weather, but the measure of God’s greatness and love.

Snow may be the humblest weather. But it is so only because of the great humility of God. If nothing else, that should give us pause as we stare out the window. Here we are in a world of God’s speech, and we hardly hear it, just as we can hardly hear the falling snow.

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