For whatever reason, I seem to be thinking quite a bit on the lessons gleaned from wilderness adventures. Maybe it was a short conversation I had with someone yesterday about how valuable the wilderness is for a training room. Or maybe it is just the plethora of trips I have undertaken and how valuable I personally know those experiences have given me.
There are so many reasons why the wilderness teaches so well. Yet here are a few more things to add to the list:
**Being in the wilderness constantly reminds me how big and transcendent Father is and how small I am. It is easy to get too big for my britches. The looming mountains remind me just how I fit into the ratio of the universe.
**Being in the wilderness reminds me how fragile my life is. I can’t get too far from water. It must always be nearby. Hydration is more on the forefront of daily activity than in civilization where it is readily available. Your every breath and heartbeat, your eyes, ears, strength, and mental health are all from God.
**Being in the wilderness shows me that there really isn’t a whole lot I can control in life. Humans try so hard to manipulate and control circumstances and things, often to no avail. The wilderness has natural laws that work so uniformly and succinctly. I must fit myself into the arena of the wild on its terms not mine.
** Weakness is highlighted. And in glaring fashion. If there is an ailment, a sore, a sickness, a discomfort, it will seem much worse in the wild. Having to walk farther than we want with a blister or a hot spot on a joint somewhere reminds us of frailty. There is no warm chicken soup for an aching body brought by someone else to bring comfort. Instead, maybe a freeze dried meal that I have to fix myself.
If I am at home and need a jostling to remember some of the things above, I read Job 38-41 and am quickly brought back to my senses.
I love camping, backpacking, and climbing mountains. There is something super-natural about it. Nothing is more powerful in my life than the metaphors found in the mountains. These metaphors and anecdotes provide more practical and spiritual lessons than anything else.
One of those lessons comes from the simple idea of finding water to drink. I carry a Katadyne water filter and pump with me on trips. I couldn’t tell you how many gallons of water I have pushed through that unit.
When I am out somewhere, the issue of where water is available looms large. One must plan hikes, climbs, and camping based on where water can be found.
When finding water to pump for drinking, I always look for a stream or creek with fast moving water. It is not a safe and prudent idea to pump from water which is stagnant and not moving. I know my filter is loaded with charcoal and other things that block out mud and 99.99% germs, living organisms, giardia, etc. and would certainly live to tell about it, but fast moving clean water just tastes better.
So here is the lesson I learned. If at anytime in my life, I stop moving and become still, I can become stagnant and possibly contain dirty stuff that can be hazardous to others. The key is to stay moving, keep moving downhill, don’t stop, even for a short period of time. Then the yucky stuff can’t settle and grow.
The other lesson for me is to keep hanging around with people who are also moving. They stay fresh and clean. They don’t allow the junk to settle in and take over.
The obvious scripture to go with this is Proverbs 4:23 “Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts. ” (Message)
I already have a life verse. If I were to have a second one it would be “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. ” Matthew 5:8 (NIV) I want to see God, so the task at hand is, as much is possible, to maintain a clean heart.
“But you wouldn’t believe what he did to me!”
“And he says he is a Christian.”
“It is just way too hard to forgive her for what she did.”
“She didn’t act like she was sorry when she apologized.”
In Luke 17, Jesus implores his followers to work with people of all types with the utmost respect and dignity. To further drive the point home regarding dealing with people and their issues, John Calvin makes a good argument. We have no choice but to forgive people when they repent and ask for forgiveness.
If anyone, therefore, appears before you who is in need of your kind services, you have no reason to refuse him your help.
Suppose he is a stranger; yet the Lord has pressed his own stamp on him and made him as one of your family, and he forbids you to despise your own flesh and blood.
Suppose he is despicable and worthless; yet the Lord has deigned him worthy to be adorned with his own image.
Suppose that you have no obligation toward him for services; yet the Lord has made him as it were his substitute, so that you have obligation for numerous and unforgettable benefits.
Suppose that he is unworthy of your least exertion; but the image of God which recommends him to you deserves that you surrender yourself and all your possessions to him.
If he has deserved no kindness, but just the opposite, because he has maddened you with his injuries and insults, even this is no reaosn why you should not surround him with your affection and show him all sorts of favors.
You may say that he has deserved a very difficult treatment, but what does the Lord command but to forgive all men their offenses and to charge them against himself? (Calvin, GBTCL, 37-38)
One must constantly be on the look out for danger signs in their spiritual health. Whether you have a built in meter to help with this, or you have a friend or spouse super willing to bring up stagnancy, which may lead to sin, spiritual health is critical. Holistically speaking our spiritual health is inexorably tied to our mental and physical health. So it is vital that we keep all parts of our beings maintained and running healthily.
In an effort to find fresh ways of feeding my soul, I have prayed and decided to audit a class at DenSem called “Reading the Spiritual Masters.” It is my goal to really stick with it as most MDiv grads who do an audit like this tend to fall off pretty quickly when there is no risk on the line.
One of the reasons I chose this class is the prof. Howard Baker is a really cool man who has helped shape some of my faith practices.
I have already received the books and begun to meditate on some of the material. One of the books is a tractate titled “Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life” by John Calvin (I’ll call it GBTCL from now on). Typically John Calvin is not one of my more favorite reads. First, they are usually more of a magnum opus and secondly, the interpreters of his French and Latin don’t work for my sophomoric mind. However this small volume is interpreted more palatably for my vocabulary.
A long introduction to a short paragraph about scripture:
The goal of the new life is that God’s children exhibit melody and harmony in their conduct. What melody? The song of God’s justice. What harmony? The harmony between god’s righteousness and our obedience.
Only if we walk in the beauty of God’s law do we become sure of our adoption as children of the Father.
The law of God contains in itself the dynamic of the new life by which his image is fully restored in us; but by nature we are sluggish, and therefore we need to be simulated, aided in our efforts by a guiding principle.
A sincere repentance from the heart does not guarantee that we shall not wander from the straight path and sometimes become bewildered.
Let us then search scripture to find the root principle for the reformation of our life.
In the words of the most interesting man in the world, “Stay thirsty my friends.”
Posted in General
Tagged Denver Seminary, GBTCL, Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, Howard Baker, John Calvin, prayer, read, reading, repentance, scripture, soul, spiritual health
Anyone who travels learns quickly that plans are made to be broken. We are precipitated into a world of contingencies, where the unexpected happens more often than not. Each situation is modified by the people we meet there– people from a world we do not know, who summon us to leave behind the world we carry with us and dare to experience something new. Somehow the fixed ideas we had on departure are stretched, expectations are modified, and our previous self-definition and discipline seem no longer fully relevant. To interact creatively with what is around us we have to become more aware of the new situation we are in, read it more closely, and humbly ask for guidance from those who know it better than we do.
Jesus does not enclose his teaching in the hard carapace of systematic thought, but sends it forth vulnerable in images and stories, told in plain everyday language. He makes moral demands that are severe to the point of extremity, and therefore easily interpreted out of existence, if we are so inclined. His doctrine was not propounded in a single ordered discourse, but offered in bits and pieces in different places and with different people in mind. This fluidity is what makes the Gospels so untidy; they each combine into a single sequential narrative all sorts of preexisting units that sometimes seem at variance with one another. On the positive side, this plurality is why the Gospel message as a whole is so readily adaptable to different cultures, and we applaud it for this. But such a spirituality challenges us constantly to keep reintroducing the Gospel into the situation where we are and reading it afresh with a willingness to change anything in our lives that is dissonant with Jesus’ teaching as it resounds at this time and in this place. We need to keep freshening up our contact with the words of Jesus, lest our discipleship become stale and meaningless, a mere formality safely confined to its own corner. As Saint John Cassian says, each day and at every moment we need to keep opening up the soil of our heart with the plow of the Gospel.
(Casey, Fully Human Fully Divine, 164-165)