Umm, yeah...You (well, I) need to get out more!
I've never ever been particularly athletic, except that one period in my life when I was around five years old and I allegedly won all the sprints in my age- group at Primary School Sports. My tendencies were always artistic, which meant countless hours indoors, painting or writing mini novels or creating comics, or making mosaics out of beans (I really treasured one particular piece my mother and I did together until the fateful day that it was eaten). It's no surprise then, that I didn't really cultivate much of an "outdoorsy" culture for myself.
As I hit high-school, I became a little more active, shedding some of the chubs, largely due to Physical Education class, and the fact that I would come home on evenings and practice my Tae Bo (back when that was a thing). Still however, I never really GOT OUT much to bond with Nature, or whatever they call that large expanse of untamed world that looks a lot like bush to me. I even joined Girl Guides, which helped a bit, since we had a hike or two here and there; and I began to learn how to bake a potato in a piece of foil between two rocks (never finished that lesson. Can someone teach me?).
Fast-forward through college, during which I was passable fitness wise, and on to the sedentary present. Being an architect has its perks, but consistent engagement with the outdoors is not necessarily one of them. With the exception of the odd site visit, I get to spend countless glamorous days shifting from one side of my numb tush to another while carefully weaving domestic dreams via CAD programs. SIDE NOTE:THAT'S NOT ALL ARCHITECT'S DO, BUT THAT'S ALL THAT'S APPLICABLE TO THIS BLOG POST! ( I had to get that off my chest there, but now, back to my story) I, like many people, currently live in a synthetic world of screens; trapped by habit within a man-made prison of convenience, "comfort", laziness and, well...STRESS.
Recently, I took a week off from work to serve at the Inter-school Christian Fellowship Camps 2015, as I do annually, but this time was different. Turning Point Campsite is nestled in Maracas St. Joseph, which is one of those places where you get the best of both worlds; the solitude of the bush, with the proximity of town if you need it. A twelve minute drive from the Eastern Main Road via St. Joseph ( I timed it, so HA!) will take you into lush , green mountains where you feel as though you are cut off from civilization as you know it. Driving toward the campsite, my view was framed by lithe bamboo stalks, bowing like palm fronds to create a verdant vaulted ceiling above the roadway. I felt my stress melting away; the familiar tension in my shoulders gave me a brief respite. Once there, I would awake daily to mist-covered mountains, with the rattling sounds of forest birds, and crisp morning air. Within all the indigenous rustlings of the outdoors, I found something that had been missing in my life quite frequently in recent times- STILLNESS.
There is something about raw exposure to nature that jolts you out of the meaningless bustle of modern day life. For many of us, this bustle has consumed us and allowed us to forget why we're even on this planet, and more so the One who made it, and put us here to enjoy it. You see, in the city most things are man-made. We're constantly surrounded by our own creations; glittery skyscrapers, hard paved sidewalks and the merciless glare of sharp sunlight reflecting off of glass facades - all singing praises to the pseudo self-sufficiency of man. Escape into nature and man's self- exaltation begins to crumble. As we observe the ordered chaos of forest foliage, or hear the sound of rushing water in a waterfall, we quickly realize that God is the One who has always provided the raw materials for anything we've ever accomplished.
As I took the time to slow down and engage with the land that God had made, it became easier to pray. Extraneous thoughts lost their efficacy and the sounds of the birds in the trees and wind rustling through forest boughs left a receptive quietude in my mind that allowed me to actually hear the voice of the Lord as He spoke to me. It made me realize that our world of synthetic flashing lights and blaring machine sounds leaves us largely overstimulated and dazed, sometimes drowning out God's still voice as He speaks to our spirits.
I challenged myself to go hiking, and my lack of fitness promptly rebuked me as I panted feverishly while advancing the moss-covered mountain undergrowth. As I pushed on, my skin glistened with a mixture of sweat and forest mist. My breathing became more regular and an acute sense of euphoria began to settle on me. I felt a distinct sense of belonging, as though I was MEANT to do this; to be out in nature with my God, with my heart pumping , just enjoying the world He had made. Gratitude oozed from my spirit as easily as the sweat from my pores. Curiously, this foray into the natural environment gave my spiritual life a much needed boost. A well known Bible verse came to mind, resounding with fresh significance:
Now that I am back in the city, I find myself in silent reverie, contemplating the following:
Could it be that as we advance technologically and cognitively, we have been systematically shutting out our Creator by distancing ourselves from an intimate interaction with His creation? I would say that's been the case for me. However, we have no excuse- I have no excuse for that. Nature remains, and it speaks.