As any reader of this blog or any person that knows me well can attest, I love nature. I love being out in the natural world, enjoying the trees, the breezes, the birds, and all types of weather. Nothing clears my spirit better than a walk under the wide and deep sky. If I have been stuck indoors for several days even a short walk outside can lift my spirits and improve my mood. Houses make me feel covered and protected, but over a little time they make me feel smothered and held down. When I am outside the sky reaches up, the blue or the clouds make me feel free, open and ready for life. Sitting under a tree, looking at sunlight through the green leaves gives me the benefit of home and sky, I feel covered and protected but within the freedom of the outdoors. If I could just live in a tree house, my life would be perfect.
I am also a Christian, and my life and my very self belong to God. I am not a perfect follower of Jesus, but since He wants me in His family I am blessed and happy to be there. . Many nature lovers are not believers in God, and it seems like many Christians are not those that deeply enjoy nature. I don’t understand that. If nature is powerful, beautiful and awe inspiring, how much more powerful, beautiful and awe-inspiring is the God that created it. I try to spend every Sunday worshipping God, singing praises to His name, enjoying the fellowship and encouragement of fellow believers, and learning more about His word. I don’t go to church to please others, or to fulfill a checklist of duty, but because I desire to give thanks to the one that created me, who created my family, and that beautiful nature I enjoy.
A day spent in the mountains hiking, drinking from the springs and breathing the high alpine air is a perfect day for feeling at peace, for aligning my spirit with the world, and for calming my soul so that I can face the rest of life. A day singing praises to my creator and worshipping with likeminded souls, people that feel the same and live their lives full of love and with a desire to do good, this also fulfills the same needs, peace and calming my soul. Church worship and Bible study do more though, because through the study of the word of God I can grow to be closer to God, more pleasing, and to become a little better of a person. Worship and Bible study don’t always bring peace and calmness, sometimes the word of God can prick my conscience and force me to see myself more clearly, and to see where I need to change. Nature isn’t always an easy teacher either. Sometimes I see hard things, sometimes I discover that I am not strong enough to finish a hike or as I endure a longer walk than I was prepared for I have to dig into reserves and challenge myself to push on. Both church and nature challenge me and force me to grow.
So, what is the difference? Am I able to worship God by hiking in the woods, and enjoying His creation? I think I am, in a way. There are lessons to be learned in the woods, and the Bible itself teaches this fact. In the book of Psalms the writers created many Psalms about the beauty of nature and how nature reflects the one that created it. For example Psalms 148 speaks of the sun and moon praising the Lord. Have you ever sat outside at night, on a truly dark night without the light pollution of the cities, and marveled at the stars. There are so many tiny lights, they cover the sky and seem to reach to the end of the universe. Of course our eyes are not that good, but if we just try to imagine the distance and size of each star, then see the multitude of stars and imagine the size and distance that each point of light represents, it is mind boggling. I cannot bring my mind to understand the vastness of the universe, but when I am on my parents’ porch in Montana late at night staring at the Milky Way as it stretches across the sky, I am always deeply awed. Psalms 19 says that “The heavens declare the glory of God: And the firmament show His handiwork.”
When I am in nature I am able to worship God, and praise Him, but I have to be careful to not get confused. I need to remember that I am not to worship the creation instead of the creator. The Bible speaks about something close to this when Paul, in writing the Book of Romans, talks about those that fashion objects to worship such as birds and other creatures. He tells them they “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever Amen” Romans 1:25. When I try to substitute my love for nature for my love of God, I am making that error. To me, nature is just an aspect of the beauty of God, a reflection of God. The greatness of the outside world is only a tiny fragment of the thought of God.
When we read a great poem or novel we want to know more about the writer. Such deep and wonderful thoughts have to come from a person that is equally deep and profound. When an artist paints inspiring scenes, we imagine that the mind of the artist must be equally inspiring. With people this isn’t always true, but when we think of the first creator, the creator of creativity, and we look at His creation, we can know that however deep and profound is the beauty of the mountains, plains and seas, so much more is the creator of such wonder. I go outside and enjoy the beauty that came from the mind of God, but I go to church to worship that creator.
The milky way galaxy, blackberries, and the tree house photos were copied from Google Images.
“Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush is afire with God; but only he who sees takes off his shoes. The rest sit around it and pick blackberries” Elizabeth Barrett Browning