In today’s blog, we see a beautiful tribute to God’s creation. Will Booth has traveled the country this summer and written about how he encounters God as he leaves society and goes outdoors.
This year I have chased the setting sun across the horizon and watched it set at the lowest point in North America. I have raced to meet it rising again on different coasts and meet it in some of the most photographed spots in the world. Chances are if you know me you know how much I love the outdoors. From hunting and fishing to hiking, and just visiting, the outdoors has been a part of me as long as I’ve known life. I have been to more national parks this year alone than most people visit in 10 years. Within the outdoors I encounter scenery that many people may never see. You see, for me, nature is not a separation from God, it’s an invitation from God. Nature is his creation, in a sense undisturbed by man. There are no skyscrapers built to reach the heavens, only mountains that have risen to meet them. My favorite National Parks documentary refers to this as “The Scripture of Nature”. The idea of lands where folks travel to replenish the spirit. For me, this idea extends past National Parks, National Forests, and National Lands, all the way to the lands my family owns in little ole Franklin County.
Romans 1:20 says, “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 people are without excuse.” Nature is the Lords handiwork displayed for us to play in and pray in. Sleeping beneath the stars in a tent allows me to have a more direct line of communication with God. A different peace washes over me while in nature. These are not man-made sites I’m taking in. I’ve never found time amongst cities to be as replenishing as time spent amongst the trees. The air is cleaner, crisper, you hear the birds, in my case often bald eagles. With nature so clearly Godly made and in front of us who are we to reject him?
Romans 1:21 goes on to say,” For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Involving myself so heavily in nature is an easy way to give praise to his creation. As it’s made for us why not enjoy it. One of the most notorious park entrances Roosevelt Arch on the Northern Yellowstone entrance is inscribed with “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People”. Early visitors to the National Parks were aroused with this sentiment that going into the park was enjoying God’s creation.
Nature has always been the place I am nearest to the Lord. I think something about being one of very few people to experience certain aspects of that life gives a different meaning to being there. Not that I feel like Adam in the Garden of Eden, taking in a wild place God created for the first time, but its breathtaking some of the places I’ve been because I love fly fishing or love the outdoors.
These places I’ve been this past year, the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Horseshoe Bend, Bryce Canyon National Park, Death Valley, The Valley of Fire, Rocky Mountain National Park, The Badlands, The Grand Tetons, and countless National Forests and BLM lands are all natural wonders of testament to the Lords immensity. In the darkest of places I’ve been at night, when all the light has faded beyond the horizon and the only light left is either your campfire or your headlights as you move down the road, you can look up. When you look up, you see the stars, and the immensity that is the heavens as something you haven’t seen unpolluted before. As “So Will I” declares: “Every painted sky, a canvas of your grace, If creation still obeys you so will I.” It is that simple for me. “If creation sings your praises so will I.”
I feel more connected with God inside his creation than I do within a large subdivision of manmade structures. John Muir said, “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out until sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” This is how I feel. Going into a forest or a river resonates with me spiritual feelings that I don’t get inside a packed church. Sure, the spiritual vibes may be higher there, but my relationship is just that, it’s my relationship. I don’t need a building to meet the Lord. I’d rather go out and meet him somewhere he’s already been and will always be. Tall trees form the cathedrals and through the sounds of nature the gospel of Christ echoes to life.
I think it’s easy to look for God in areas and look for what he is currently doing, not what he’s done. You often here God is moving here today, but a lot of times you don’t see people say I felt God here. It is the expectation that we want to see God at work, never that we have seen God at work. Nature is like that for me. National Parks and places that don’t occur frequently geographically are those Edens of modern earth, and these are testaments to what God has done, just the same as the rising sun every day is a testament to what God is doing.
Man was placed in nature as he was created, to me this displays God’s desire for us to be within his creation. Who am I to deny him appreciation of his creation? All great artists like having their art appreciated. To appreciate God’s work is to go into nature and be among it. When I can go into nature and not have another person within 10+ miles of me. That is leaving only the Lord and I together. I can be physically alone, but the immensity of my environment makes me never feel alone. “If everything exists to lift you high so will I.”
The natural world is forever an Eden to me, because you can sit outside in the quiet and just hearing wind blow through the trees or the utter silence brings a peace that doesn’t come from everyday life. The outdoors is a testament, to me, to what man cannot do. He cannot rise mountains out of plains, and he cannot carve canyons into the earth. These are only things the Lord can do. In the same vein as nature, splendid as it may be in its individuality, to him I am the same masterpiece. Each person is as unique to him, as the geysers of Yellowstone, the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier, or the Court of the Patriarchs in Zion are unique to us, his children. It doesn’t matter whether if I look at myself and see a Grand Canyon (pit) of despair or a Grand Teton (mountain) of sin, God looks at me and sees the same craftsmanship as he does those same landscapes. And as long as nature exists for him, so will I.
“He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth – The Lord God Almighty is his name.” – Amos 4:13