by Ben Anderson
I love being outdoors.
As an endurance athlete, I am in my element as I run, bike, or ski in nature, away from the bustle and stress of the everyday. In many ways, the outdoors — country roads, mountains, forests — are my home, a place of joy and peace. In these sanctuaries I strain myself physically, and feel the healthy burn of activity consume worries and anxiety, as a flame consumes thorns. I enjoy the sensation of air rushing past my face as I ride down a mountain, or cooling snow meeting the heat of my pumping arms as I ski. I breathe in the pure air and gaze upon mountains, lakes, and groves, mantled with iridescent blue skies and lofty clouds, or perhaps a crimson sunrise. Above all, I feel the presence of my Father, who made all these wonders, and allows me to partake in His enjoyment of them. Alone in nature, Paul’s words resonate deep within me: “[God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” (Romans 1:20 ESV) How could I not see Him through His awesome craftsmanship? My deepest times of communion with my Father are often during prayer in these places, away from all of life’s distractions. In the quiet, in his pristine creation, I talk to Him, and I hear His voice.
There are two main impressions which I receive while being in nature. The first is that God is an amazing artist. No human sculpture can rival the intricacy and life of a tree, which reaches its verdant leaves toward the sun and shades the countless creatures which call it home. No beautiful raiment can compare with the honest beauty of a field of wildflowers: yellow, red, white, and lavender. Jesus noted that “Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:29) No giant skyscraper or ornate temple can hold a candle to the humbling glory of the Himalayas, whose massive, jagged peaks pierce the sky, far above the clouds, and reflect the sun’s dazzling light toward all who gaze upon their majesty. Neither is God’s handiwork static. In the winter, I ski past evergreens capped with sparkling snow, under the bright blue. In the spring, I ride between hills mottled with all different shades of green, as new life springs forth. In the summer, the forest trails I run on are shielded by a dark canopy, which bursts into an inferno of color and falls to the ground in the autumn, as I crunch-crunch-crunch over the leaves. This is my Father’s world.
The second impression is of God’s power. Who can stand against the roar of a mighty river? who can move the mountains? Who can control the weather, which pays no heed to the plans of men, bringing both rain and drought, both calm and storm? I cannot see the wind, but I can feel its presence as it bellows through the treetops, making branches flail about, and rushing past my skin. It reminds me of the Holy Spirit: invisible, but omnipotent. Nothing can stand against His will. Furthermore, when I feel overcome by the future — decisions, deadlines, choices, opportunities — my Father reminds me of the incredible cohesiveness and unity of this universe: from the largest galaxy down to the smallest subatomic particle, across all different ecosystems and seasons, He is in total control. He always has been, and always will be. He says, “My son, I AM. Your conception of permanence is but a breath to me. If I can run the universe, then surely I can lead you on My perfect path, if only you will follow Me.”