Nature has always blended in special harmony with my spirit. The whispering invitation of the trees will forever resonate more intensely in my heart than the chaotic noise of humanity. I love being outside and away from people – walking, hiking, exploring, gazing out over vast expanses of uncultivated land. It reorients my perspective to the larger picture, the grander design. It’s humbling to be a speck on a cliff, peering out into a sea of foliage that spans for miles, knowing that I am just a minute existence of a thing in comparison to all that is. But yet somehow… I still matter.
My parents took care to help nurture this love, taking family trips to national parks and waterfalls and allowing me the freedom to climb and explore, to lead and navigate, holding my hand when necessary and letting go to permit risk. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for them to watch. On trips that were just me and my dad, I would often be warned, “Don’t tell your mom I let you do this!” And I would smile and feel brave, my confidence growing with the conquering of each tiny ledge, large leap, and steep drop-off. I think the mom heart feels the gravity of all the “what-ifs” slightly more and so we are quicker to pump the breaks on testing physical limits. But now that I’m a mom myself and having had those experiences growing up, I do feel a certain amount of anxiety, but also a freedom to allow my kids the same experiences… hopefully WITH my knowledge, though (Hah. Right…).
My dad was a bit of a nomad in his earlier years after his time in the Marine Corp- through college and into his 30’s and before he met my mom. He is a storyteller by nature, so growing up hearing about his motorcycle adventures through the mountains of Albuquerque, New Mexico and his photography and van life travels all across the United States settled deep into my bones. Who rides a motorcycle up the side of mountain in the dead of winter during a blizzard? Who crawls into the middle of a herd of bison in order to capture a better image? Who gives up a potential high-income job working with high-end businesses because he’s bored and instead takes off into the sunset with his camera and beat-up van? This guy. And who accepted this same guy’s marriage proposal after one date? My mom. Because of course. They were a divine match.
I mean it all seems so adventurous, idyllic, and picturesque, right? Straight out of a book. A life of freedom, changing scenery, thrill, and excitement. So when I’m in those wide open spaces of beauty and grandeur, my heart explodes. I feel like Moana finally getting to sail past the reef (cue the Disney soundtrack). It would delight me to no end if instead of choosing traditional sports, my sons would pursue things like rock-climbing, wilderness survival training, mountain biking, etc. I have to be honest when I say I would find way more personal enjoyment in watching them scale cliffs than staring at a baseball diamond or a basketball court. That’s just me, though.
I want to be a family that lives out adventures and makes memories on the open road; that crisscrosses through states and hikes and explores; that breathes in the scent of natural creation through every pore of the skin instead of simply knowing of its existence on a television screen or through other people’s photographs. I have to work hard to reign in my jealousy when I hear about or see images of the travels of other people and families. Sometimes I get depressed that I live in a state filled with corn fields instead of mountains or oceans.
Every autumn when the air is cooling and leaves are transforming into vibrant shades of fiery color, this particular nostalgia and longing tends to creep in. It is my absolute favorite time of year, but it is often filled with an intense, overwhelming desire to go. I don’t know that I even have the words to adequately describe the depth of meaning in that one, simple verb because it encompasses a profoundly complex, passionate longing in my God-shaped spirit.
I experience God’s presence most acutely in the midst of uninhabited creation. My spirit connects instantly with the natural landscape. It all just feels so right and pure. No politics, no media culture, no traffic, no to-do lists. The constraints and inhibitions of normal, daily living are suddenly lifted and I feel free to breathe my own air, to walk my own path, to take my time, and just simply be in the present moment.
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” -Romans 1:20, NIV
It makes sense that I would feel this way- a created being designed by the same Creator that called the snow-capped mountains into existence with a word. We are connected by the same Hands, the same Voice. It seems obvious that I would marvel at the awesomeness of all that is wild, beautiful, and free- as my own heart is fashioned in similar orientation through the Spirit of God.
There is an uninhibited reality that is displayed throughout nature. Where humans strive to paint lines over truth, cover up what we don’t like, hide the things we deem unworthy, showcase only the best created versions of ourselves- nature manifests its true self consistently and without fail. And still, every bit of it is worthy of notice. Perhaps that’s why as a truth seeker I feel so drawn to it; because the stories of creation are all at once broken, glorious, tragic, and oh so very real. It doesn’t hide its hard parts. It can only be what it was created to be: an honest wild.
I find the authenticity of nature to be, in part, a representation of God’s own character; unbounded and outside the confines of human ruling. We don’t control the wind and the waves, much as we don’t control the hand of God. Our existence, as seen through the lenses of our human eyes, is far too narrow and adulterated to comprehend the vastness and complexity of God’s total design- yet every piece of the puzzle points to Him. It is for this reason that I experience freedom and joy when I step into the extravagantly majestic spaces of open air and feel the wind turn my face toward the sun. Because it is there in those places that I feel Ultimate Truth permeate to the core of my being- that God is here, among us, with us, inside of us, loving us, offering us this glimpse of immense beauty that is only a drop in the ocean compared to the perfection that awaits us in eternity.
And what if we as humans were also to live out our own honest wild? To free ourselves from cultural mandates, human perspective, and limited thinking, and instead allow the sweeping winds of the Holy Spirit to drive us toward open, truthful, transparent living in the simplest ways of loving, serving, and giving? To breathe in grace and exhale love? To pursue actual wisdom instead of click-bait articles or the loudest voice? I know I get tired of pretending I’m something other, of withholding when I see a need, and adding my own hot air to a ballooning, self-serving culture. Maybe you do, too.
In the final moments of my life I want to be able to look back and smile on the journey, knowing that I was able to live and love truthfully and transparently- maybe not perfectly or even beautifully at times, but purposefully and honestly- a life that was worth every single God-given breath.
Join me on the cliff’s edge, will you? Let’s jump outside the calculated boundaries of human creation and see what happens in the wildness of God’s.
Peace & Love, Amy
(All photos credits: my dad- no filters, photoshopping, or other editing used.)