Recently, my family took a trip up to the mountains to hike and just get away from it all for a little while. We do this as time permits during the summer and it really has a calming, restorative effect.
This time, our destination was Mueller State Park, which is located near Divide, Colorado. Divide is approximately 9,000 feet in elevation so the state park has trails that are at 9,000 feet and higher. Elevation is everything in Colorado. Besides the name of a city on state signs, elevation is the only other fact worth noting. In California, where I was raised, signs also included population, but out here that doesn’t seem to matter. Population comes and goes. Elevation is forever.
Now, back to our topic.
When Mike, Stephen (the youngest) and I visited Mueller State Park, the pine trees were a lush, deep, dark green because of all of the rain we have had this year. The aspens, which are interspersed among the pines, were just showing signs of fading to their golden splendor. When they are at their peak in the fall the mountains look as if they were aflame. It is stunning. Here we are at Grouse Mountain Overlook. The view was magnificent.
There are many people today who write about the benefits of nature on the psyche. There are proven calming affects on the soul as you quiet yourself next to a mountain stream and listen to sound of the babbling water. My favorite is hearing the sound of the wind whisper to the tree tops overhead. No matter what was clouding my mind, once I hear that sound I am pacified and all is well.
What is this calming effect?
Other writers will say that getting back to our primal beginnings in nature is what calms us. Nature helps us clear away all of the loud voices that distract us so that we can get to that inner voice – the voice of our soul – which centers us and calls us back to who we really are.
These writers are correct, in a limited sense. Based on my experience I find that there is a deeper reason than just nature calming my soul. I would say that nature speaks to the deep recesses of my soul about God and it is God’s voice – not the voice of my soul – that brings peace in a mystical sort of way. God is the one who opens up my true self to me because God is the one who created me. As I walk in the woods, or on a prairie road, I hear God’s gentle voice calling me and reminding me that he loves me. God’s voice centers me and brings me to an understanding of where I need to be or gives assurance that I am exactly where I need to be. There is nothing more satisfying than recognizing this voice within your heart telling you that you are loved, cherished and worth all of the pain and suffering that God’s son Jesus went through to bring you to where you are right here, right now. One of my favorite devotional authors, Henri Nouwen, wrote this in Bread for the Journey:
When God took on flesh in Jesus Christ, the uncreated and the created, the eternal and the temporal, the divine and the human became united. This unity meant that all that is mortal now points to the immortal, all that is finite now points to the infinite. In and through Jesus all creation has become like a splendid veil, through which the face of God is revealed to us.
This is called the sacramental quality of the created order. All that is is sacred because all that is speaks of God’s redeeming love. Seas and winds, mountains and trees, sun, moon, and stars, and all the animals and people have become sacred windows offering us glimpses of God.
And then Psalm 19 says:
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies [proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” – Psalm 19: 1-3 (NIV)
Do you enjoy nature? How does nature speak to you about God? Is the voice calming or are there some areas in your life that need attention?