Wind whipped our hair as we stood on the top level of the boat. The boat cut through the choppy water, leaving our wake splashing behind us. I licked my lips, salty from the spray. Large tree-covered islands mounded up from the ocean floor.
My husband and I had finally gotten away for a few days (for the first time since having kids!) and we were whale watching on the Juan de Fuca Straight on the West Coast of Canada.
“Thank you God for this beauty,” I whispered.
Suddenly I was overcome with an overwhelming sense of awe. Just beneath us was an entirely different world, where strange creatures breathed easily in a medium that would destroy our lungs in seconds. This was a world where gigantic animals were weightless but deigned to surface near our boat so we could enjoy their elusive beauty.
Connecting with God through nature: a Biblical response
Connecting with God through nature is most beautifully described in the Belgic Confession, written in 1561.
We know God by two means:Article 2 of the Belgic Confession (from the year 1561)
First, by the creation, preservation, and government
of the universe,
since that universe is before our eyes
like a beautiful book
in which all creatures,
great and small,
are as letters
to make us ponder the invisible things of God:
God’s eternal power and divinity,
as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20.
All these things are enough to convict humans
and to leave them without excuse.
Have you ever experienced a profound sense of awe, wonder, or gratitude while out in nature? Perhaps it’s happened after climbing a mountain and seeing the entire mountain range stretched out in front of you. Maybe it’s happened during a storm, or in the forest.
The Naturalist Sacred Pathway
In his book, Sacred Pathways, Gary Thomas describes a person who finds it easiest to connect with God through nature a Naturalist.
Where we worship can have a profound impact on the quality of our worship. The naturalist seeks to leave the formal architecture and the padded pews to enter an entirely new “cathedral,” a place that God himself has built: the out-of-doors…Naturalists have found that getting outside can literally flood parched hearts and soften the hardest soul.Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God (Gary Thomas)
Naturalists find it easiest to meet with God in his creation – they find him most accessible when they are accessing the “book of God’s works”.
I have to admit, I was in a pretty ideal place to be connecting with God – a place so far out of my normal life and so much into his creation that it would be hard to deny his handiwork. I don’t particularly consider myself a Naturalist, but there are some times when it’s pretty hard not to be!
How to be a naturalist when you can’t be in the wild
But here’s the rub:
- What do you do if you connect with God best through nature, but you live in the city and not an acreage?
- What if you work in an office instead of a field, and your spare time is taken up at the hockey arena instead of the mountains?
What’s a Naturalist to do?
I think the key is to find ways where you can connect with God’s creation in large quantities when possible (like camping in summer or cross-country skiing in winter), and when that’s impossible, to find other ways to immerse yourself in his works.
- Take up gardening. I know I’ve had several good conversations with God while weeding!
- Take a walk in the river valley instead of along the sidewalk.
- In this digital age, it’s especially easy to imagine yourself in nature: check out this radio station that only plays nature sounds!
- Watch a Planet Earth documentary with your kids, praying and praising your way through it.
- Having plants or pets in your home might help you remember his creation.
- Keep a fresh bouquet of glorious flowers on your table.
- Watch this video of the incredible pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Our God has created an ENORMOUS universe!
The key is, I think, to approach all contacts with God’s creation mindfully and prayerfully, whether you’re in nature for weeks, or just a few moments.
For example, you could easily take your kids to the park and not experience God’s presence at all OR you can praise him for the changeable clouds and the way he knows the grains of sands at the park just like he knows the thoughts in your head, and allow him to speak to you through the ruts in the ground that are worn deep like the hurts in your heart.
Examples of what we can learn about God from his creation
When you see rocks, a Biblical symbol of God’s reliability,
pray 1 Samuel 2:2 (NIV) “There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.”
When you see flowers, a Biblical symbol of growth and provision,
remember Luke 12:27 (NIV): “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.”
When you see the sun rise or set, remember that God gave us light and warmth and hope, and that the darkness is not forever. Pray Psalm 113:3 (NIV) “From the rising of the sun to its setting The name of the LORD is to be praised.”
Related articles on connecting with God through Sacred Pathways:
- How to Love God With All Your Mind
- 3 Ways to Find God Through Tradition
- When Cleaning Becomes Worship
- Connecting with God Through Standing Up for Others
- Experiencing God Through the 5 Senses
- Experiencing God Through Exuberant Worship
- Connecting With God Through Nature