“It rises at one end of the heavens and makes it circuit to the other;
nothing is hidden from its heat.” Psalm 19
The plants in my office windows don’t always look as healthy as they might, and it’s my fault. I get too busy and forget about them, forget to water. Then, one day, I glance their way, sense their sadness, and revive them once again, an act which sounds far more redemptive than it is since their visible sadness grew from my neglect.
It’s September now, and it won’t be long before they will start to decline in other ways. Even though they’re in a controlled environment at my office at school, they don’t do all that well in winter. They survive, but they don’t flourish. Even though the temperature never alters, they barely slug along in December. That creeping rhododendron loses its curiosity, its tendrils flaccid along my windowpane.
It has to be the sun. If it isn’t me, it isn’t water, it isn’t heat—it has to be the sun. Mushrooms, I suppose, and vampires, creatures of the deep and Arizonians in August don’t like the sun; but most of the world gratefully approves. Dispositions in Iceland and other places grow wearily despondent come winter, when there is little daylight. Working nights can alter personalities because those who do, researchers say, simply don’t see enough of the sun. Rainforests may well be incredible ecological treasures; but no one there should expect many tourist dollars.
My basement is warm this time of year, often warmer than the air outside and the entire upstairs of the house. Down here is where I sit, where I write; and this morning when I came in the study, I was greeted by a warmth that was, well, touching. We’ll run our furnace upstairs soon, but it will be some time before I crank up the space heater down here because, throughout the summer, the sun has energized the battery of earth outside my walls.
Of course, the situation is reversed in May and even early June, when outside temps get balmy. Down here, there’s still frost on the pumpkin, and that space heater kicks out radiant heat as if it were January. Such is life. Such is the power of the sun.
Spurgeon says it reminds him of grace, this sunshine. It seeps into everything, often as not unseen. Right now, it’s in the ground, yards deep—more than yards deep, in fact. Ten feet below the lawn outside, the ground is warm, even though whatever hard-packed clay is down there has never ever had to squint. Even where the sun doesn’t shine, its radiance somehow beams. Stand out beneath a cloudy sky all day and you can still get burned.
Honestly, it’s everywhere—and that’s what the Psalmist says in verse six. Even when it’s not a blaze in a midday sky, the sun is there, working. If it wasn’t, we couldn’t live. If it wasn’t, those plants in my study would shrivel and I’d be freezing. If it wasn’t, we’d all be scrambling for buffalo robes. If it wasn’t, there’d be no buffalo.
There’s a single line on a full sheet of paper thumb-tacked to my bulletin board down here. It says, “Without grace, we’re trapped in ourselves forever.” It’s a line from an essay written by Jeanne Murray Walker, a friend, a writer, a believer.
Seems to me that what Jeanne suggests is that, without grace, really, we’re dead.
Spurgeon wasn’t wrong, at least that’s what I’m thinking, at the keyboard in a basement study that seems, this morning, almost preternaturally warm.