We’re up in Southwest Virginia for the holidays, and God gave us snow on the night of Christmas Eve! The miraculous part of it was that it had barely snowed here in many years. But somehow, everything lined up perfectly and we got almost six inches to create one of the most picturesque winter wonderlands I had ever seen. We ate icicles, went sledding, threw snow at each other, and were genuinely spellbound at how everything shimmered in the soft sunlight. It was astonishingly beautiful. It was Christmas, and there were no other obligations, and so we paused and lingered in it. And shook our heads in incredulity.
This got me thinking about the most beautiful sights us humans have ever beheld. I thought about Adam and Eve, and what the first months and years of creation must have looked like – with the healthiest of fruit trees and sprightliest of animals in the lushest of landscapes ever conceived. I thought about the Star of Bethlehem that may have guided the wise men to baby Jesus, and how brightly and wondrously it must have shone. And I thought of some of the breathtaking sights I’ve had the opportunity to see: the thunderous majesty of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe; the bioluminescent phytoplankton that were stirred to activity by our kayak and oars in Vieques, Puerto Rico; and a mama loggerhead turtle digging a nest in the sand on the beach near where we live in Jupiter, Florida. Each of those moments did something to me deep down – to my heart, to my perspective on living. They made me feel better. And more alive.
And while reflecting on all of this, it occurred to me that all of these beautiful sights had one simple thing in common: they were all outside. In nature. Away from daily life, from the grind, from the rat race. I think that if you asked everyone what was the most beautiful sight they have ever seen, they may say something like their fiancée coming down the aisle or their baby being born but likely will recount something of God’s creation. This would be true two thousand years ago, five hundred years ago, and even fifty years ago. And what’s all the more interesting is that I think it would be true today – even though we are so completely absorbed with our devices and technological conveniences. Even today, I think anyone of any age would still tell you that it was something in nature that amazed or captivated them the most.
The push and pull of modern life keeps us at home (or at work), inside, in a routine that slowly erodes the strength of our desire to get out, get away, and get immersed in the natural environments that have the ability to awake us, impact us, and restore us.
What does this mean? Well, the push and pull of modern life keeps us at home (or at work), inside, in a routine that slowly erodes the strength of our desire to get out, get away, and get immersed in the natural environments that have the ability to awake us, impact us, and restore us. There is something singularly extraordinary about creation; this makes sense, given that its intention is to reveal who God is to us: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Even more, everything in nature shouts out His reality: “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature.”
If the natural world can have this disruptive effect on us, and if it does so purposefully because its Creator is behind it all, should we not take part in it more? Should we not make more time for it? Should we not intentionally schedule it into our lives, so that it is a regular occurrence and not random and rare? Yes, yes, and more yes. I contend that our souls need this. Like our bodies need oxygen, our souls need beauty. And not what you scroll through in your Instagram feed. Immersive, palpable beauty.
Like our bodies need oxygen, our souls need beauty. And not what you scroll through in your Instagram feed. Immersive, palpable beauty.
Perhaps all of us can choose to make it a bigger part of our lives as we roll into the new year. Maybe you could choose to go to a national park instead of a resort or theme park this year on your annual vacation. Maybe you could forego sleep for one night in mid- August, November, or December to see the Perseid, Leonid, or Geminid meteor showers and make memories wishing on a number of shooting stars. Or maybe you could take more walks along the beach or around a local lake or across a field of wildflowers, just because. To observe. Rachel and I have done all of these things not because it makes us cool or better than anyone else, but because we need it to experience God, to stay close to Him.
We need that desperately.
And maybe you do too. If you’re not sensing His presence, if you feel like He’s so far away and even unreachable, maybe He’s just been waiting for you to step outside. Maybe He has something to show you that will do something to you deep down. And make you better, and more alive.
Image source: https://bit.ly/3aGxsaQ – Colin Mulvany, The Spokesman-Review