© 2011 David's Harp and Pen
DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so I don’t want to hear any complaints or griping from Greenpeace or environmental groups. I can assure you that no national parks or wilderness areas were harmed in the blogging of this blog.
Recently, a business associate recommended I watch “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” a documentary by Ken Burns of “Unforgivable Blackness” fame. Nature and I have enjoyed a tenuous relationship at best, but I decided to give it a go. I expected to learn about the history of Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the rest of what are America’s most popular vacation destinations. What I didn’t expect was to learn the landscape of my own soul.
The documentary, six DVDs total, tells the long, intricate story of all that went into the creation and maintenance of America’s national parks. There were so many beautiful tales interwoven of the people who sacrificed so much to make sure these scenic wonderlands could be preserved for successive generations. I don’t expect to shed tears when watching nature documentaries, but there were sections of the series, especially the story of John Muir and his relationship with his wife, that moved me so much I went through a whole sequoia’s worth of Kleenex.
I have been hiking a sum total of three times, and all three times, I felt terribly on edge. There has always been something about being out in nature that has made me feel ill at ease. I had chalked that feeling I experienced on the hikes up to different things, but after watching the National Parks documentary, I decided to explore the uneasiness a little closer.
It’s not that I didn’t like the outdoors. I have fond memories of camping and fishing as a kid. However, there has always been something about the outdoors that has both delighted and terrified me. As I prayed about it one night, I was reminded of Matthew 6:25-32 (The Amplified Bible) “Therefore I tell you, stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink; or about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life greater [in quality] than food, and the body [far above and more excellent] than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father keeps feeding them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by worrying and being anxious can add one unit of measure (cubit) to his stature or to the span of his life? And why should you be anxious about clothes? Consider the lilies of the field and learn thoroughly how they grow; they neither toil nor spin. Yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his magnificence (excellence, dignity, and grace) was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and green and tomorrow is tossed into the furnace, will He not much more surely clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry and be anxious, saying, What are we going to have to eat? or, What are we going to have to drink? or, What are we going to have to wear? For the Gentiles (heathen) wish for and crave and diligently seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows well that you need them all.”
And therein laid my problem: I had trouble with nature because it convicted me of my fear of rest and inability to trust God. The birds and the lilies do not strive to muster God’s attention or merit His favor, and yet He takes care of their every need. How often I work myself up into a frenzy of emotions, good works, what have you, so I can feel that I’ve earned the right to God’s love and God’s provision, forgetting too often that God loves me for who I am as his child and not what I do. Nature has no anxiety nor exhibits no care. Nature rests in the fact that the Father of Creation will tend to its every need. That rest not only scares me, but it shames me.
It shames me because, according to Psalm 8, with as glorious as Creation is, God has made man—which includes me—ruler over the works of his hands, and has put everything under our feet. The sun and the moon rise and set at their appointed times with startling faithfulness, yet I, the one God has chosen for his bride, am defined by my unfaithfulness. The canyons and river valleys readily and fully submit to the carving and the purification of the rushing waters, but I, who God refers to as clay in the potter’s hands, fight him every step of the way. Nature keenly observes the times and seasons allotted to it, and moves, adapts, and morphs as God instructs, but I, who is called by God to be his servant and mouthpiece, vacillate and waver, always asking and second-guessing him as to his timing and his ability to sustain me in different circumstances.
I don’t see nature the same now. What was once a source of tension has now become that trusted friend who, though wounding me at first, has proven himself a trusted ally. When I look at the mountains from my window, and see the deer darting across a busy thoroughfare, I am freshly reminded to rest in God’s love, promises, and purposes for me. Once my knees get better, I plan to go for a hike, a solo one, so that maybe I can learn a little more the art of rest that the rest of God’s Creation seems to have down pat.