In talking with people and reading hiker blogs, I am often given the impression that the purpose of getting out into nature is to view the spectacular and have an almost ecstatic experience. If that goal is not reached, then it was a total failure or at least not worth mentioning. I thank God He does not submit to our false ideas, otherwise we would have long dry death marches between oases in the desert.
Let's lay down two guardrails before we drive down the road between them. First, because of evil we are not in Eden. Therefore, by comparison, nothing is spectacular anymore. Second, in spite of evil, it is a miracle that anything is living and blooming anymore. Everything is spectacular!
Now let's revisit a key part from a quote in the first article.
The beneficent operations of nature are not accomplished by abrupt and startling interpositions; men are not permitted to take her work into their own hands. God works through the calm, regular operation of His appointed laws. So it is in spiritual things. — Testimonies to Ministers, 189
God calls us into nature. "In the cool of the day" Jesus comes to us seeking our companionship. The hustle and bustle, the rigidity and competition of the city makes for a distracting environment in which to talk with our Lord. So Jesus beckons us to park and river, forest and mountain. He wants to meet with us in the environment He built so He can gradually, gently grow us into His image.
There are jewels in the rainbows, the posing birds, the cascading waterfalls, and the majestic mountains, but they are merely the setting for the real jewel—God with us. Really! Not just God. Not just us. God with us. Father and son communing mind with mind and heart with heart in the grassy meadow. Now that is a picture for the ages. That is the photo Gabriel shows to his buddy angels in the New Jerusalem!
When every other voice is hushed, and in quietness we wait before Him, the silence of the soul makes more distinct the voice of God. He bids us, "Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10 — Desire of Ages, 363
We sometimes need those gray days to turn our attention heavenward. Nature is intended to be a meditation aid, not a distraction in itself. If everything was spectacular roses and rainbows, then that would be the new normal and nothing would be spectacular. We would be like kids constantly hunting for Easter eggs rather than for the risen Savior.
I share this point because just this past weekend it was vividly impressed upon me. I have started skiing the Pacific Crest Trail from California to Washington as a way to enjoy nature time with God and to call attention to the PCT ministry at Big Lake Youth Camp. I traversed the second section from I-5 east then north through the Soda Mountain Wilderness to highway 66. It starts and ends in rather ugly, tangled scrub oak and rims the Ashland valley in thick forest with few views. On top of that, most of the weekend was gray, snowy, and foggy.
Photo ops were rare, but I was determined to be thankful, rather than wallow in disappointment. God blessed. I got into a slow rhythm and I was able to focus on certain thoughts that helped me in some other writing I am doing in an attempt to reach atheists. Though cut short by weather and conditions, it was uninterrupted time with the Shepherd of my soul.
That was a very good thing. 24 hours later, my wife and I received a call from an emergency room in northern Washington where our oldest daughter had just been admitted. Along with the bad news, God's sustaining grace came flooding in. He who had been with me was still with me. More importantly, He was with my daughter. (Note: she will recover!) Growing up in Chicago, I couldn't find God. I naturally became an atheist. In nature, I (super)naturally sense God's presence much easier.
Returning now to my original observation. I have seen many hikers have a hard time transferring their wilderness experience into real life. Their focus was on the spectacular, so in real life their focus is on the spectacular.
This last weekend has reminded me once again to appreciate the grace in the ordinary struggle of life. God is not only in the beautiful, but also in the ugly. He is in the black and the white and the gray, not only the color. He is with all of us on the park bench, on the beach, under the tree, and at the sick bed. He is with us always, even to the end of the world.
by Ed Lyons, 3/3/17