I was not raised to view nature as spiritual. Sure, God made the cattle on a thousand hills, and He cares for the ravens and lilies, etc., etc., etc. I was taught that nature was created. But very little was said about nature holding the creator.
I don’t talk about spirituality or faith on Humans Outside very often, almost entirely because I don’t want to alienate any listener. I want every single person who wants to go outside to feel comfortable coming here, regardless of faith background, regardless of if they believe in something, anything, nothing, or everything. I share what I find outside because I see it as so important, so life-changing, so vast. It is for everyone who wants it. And I want anyone who wants it to feel welcomed here.
But this is a Diary – it’s in the title. And spirituality is on my mind thanks to a recent conversation I had for an upcoming episode of Humans Outside, and because my faith tradition just celebrated Easter, resurrection and new life, something we do outside when we can. This time it was with a view of a stunning mountain scape from an area where we often ski and sled. And celebrating there matters because, to me, the grandest thing that declares and reminds of a higher power are those views.
I’ve been thinking about the great mistake that so many faith traditions – the evangelical church, for one – make in how they view or refuse to view nature. Any thought that nature is spiritual is bucked because it smells too much like paganism, too much like worship of creation verses the creator. And while they are so busy running away from that, they abandon every notion and forget every concept that nature can still carry spiritual weight.
To me, nature is deeply spiritual. It shows me my size in the great scheme of things — powerful and large as a person standing within herself, small and powerless as a human in the great scheme of everything. When I stand on the top of a mountain, I am everything and nothing at the same time. It is a spiritual context that gives me hope and a sense of place.
When I use the earth for play or for food, taking what I need to give me life, I make a spiritual exchange with everything that has in the past utilized, enjoyed or experience the spot on which I stand. It is literally living and breathing around me. My faith tradition says this is God breathed life. Maybe yours does not. But anyone who has stood quietly, listening in the stillness of a forest can sense the energy there.
Many of Christianity’s most treasured scriptures of worship are poems and songs written by David, a King of Israel who spent many of his years outside as a shepherd or being chased around by his nemesis Saul. This was a guy who not only knew about the harshness of creation — living in a cave will do that to you — but also its beauty. And his poetry is deeply earth based and deeply spiritual. How can you read these words and not think of nature and not feel that connection? The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He leads me besides the still waters. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He restores my soul.
Who among us has not felt restored by green pastures and still waters? Maybe that’s at a soul level. For me it is. Maybe that’s spiritual. For me, it is.
For me and to me, being outside is a reminder of that. When my soul is troubled because of evil in the world or challenges in my own life, heading outside brings me peace. There are so many reasons for that, including chemicals and hormones in my body and the way breathing deeply, for example, helps my brain function. But among those reasons is the spiritual soul food time with the created earth gives me.
And that, to me, is a deep mystery that I am OK releasing and just letting it be. It’s OK to not fully understand everything. It’s OK to just say thank you and move forward in gratitute.
You can see pictures from my outdoor time, including one from that Easter morning service, at Humans Outside on facebook and instagram. Tag me in your photos, I want to see those too, on Facebook and Instagram with #humansoutside365. And until next time, we’ll see you out there.