I have always loved the outdoors, even at a young age.
I remember laying in bed with my windows open as many nights as the weather would allow…which was pretty much always unless it was the bitter middle of winter. I loved hearing rain, thunder, breezes, crickets in the night, bullfrogs and birds. I would feel the peace of God wrap around me like a blanket and I would just enjoy it.
We lived near the woods, so my brothers and I spent countless summer days playing outside past dark…playing kickball, building forts, playing hide and seek.
I distinctly remember my walks to the bus in the morning. My very favorite ones were in the dead of winter when snow blanketed the ground. There’s something insanely still and quiet about a winter morning that you don’t get in any other season. The snow literally sparkled, the sky was so clear, the moon shone so bright and the stars twinkled and shimmered. I hated getting on the bus after that walk because it shook me from the stillness of the snow and ushered me into the chaos of a day in school.
In junior high, I picked up running. I was not athletic at all, but through a series of events, it became a passion of mine. And I think one of the main reasons was because it was simple. I put on my shoes and I just went wherever I wanted to go at any time of the day…I could enjoy an early morning or late summer evening…I could enjoy a light drizzle or the fresh air after a storm. I could explore roads I had never been on or mindlessly follow a familiar path. I could run when we traveled on vacations or in new towns.
And nature is completely full of spiritual metaphors. Storms of life. The rainbow after the rain. Bloom where you’re planted. The ever-changing rivers. A cocoon changing into a butterfly. The sun that always rises every morning. And on and on.
One of my very favorite metaphors is the sky. Or I guess you might say the clouds. Every winter, I struggle a little with SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder. The constant grey, the bitter cold, the short days and dark mornings and evenings bring me down. I have a tough time feeling light and happy like I do during other seasons. I move slower. I am not as positive.
Yet the one thing that lightens my heart is looking up at those dark clouds. Because I know the sun is always shining so brightly behind them. It seems like such a simple concept, but it always brightens my mood a little when I consider it. I think back in airplane rides I have taken. As we rise into the air, we slice right through those clouds into a bright blue sky and a shining sun. It’s always there. Every day. The clouds are temporary. That sun is eternal and immovable and faithful.
And not only that, but the same sun that shines so brightly, even on a dark and cloudy day, is the very same sun that shines down on the entire earth…on every single person.
Those gloomy winters days can feel so oppressive…day after day after day. But to know the sun is there still trying to make its way in and warm the earth, somehow gives me hope for spring in a way not much else can.
The other night, I lay in bed with my windows cracked as a summer storm gently rolled outside. I couldn’t sleep, so I tried to pray, searching my brain for that list of prayer requests I knew was laying around. And it was long. I felt obligated to fill that time with useful, productive prayer.
But then I thought back to when I was a child, back to when just basking in those sounds was a prayer. Feeling the presence of God in the weather and the rain and the comforting sound of water on the roof drew me closer to God then checking off a to-do list. Being aware of God’s presence and reveling in it is a prayer all on its own.
Yes, it’s wonderful and amazing to work through those lists. I still try to every day. But let’s not discredit stillness and thoughtfulness on the King of the Universe, the Creator of beauty and light. In fact, He tells us several places throughout scripture to be still…be quiet…let Him work, let Him shine, let Him speak to our hearts.
We get so caught up in the doing, the being, the accomplishing, the analyzing that we forget the simplicity of reflecting on God’s love and living out of that. Instead of focusing on the stress of life and just soaking and wallowing in that mire…and then trying to fix it by being overly spiritual and prayerful…focus on the light that always shines, regardless of the darkness of our days.
Some days are more cloudy and snowy and cold than others, but the warmth and light of God is always there, just as the sun strives to shine through the clouds and still lights up every day. It may not shine as bright as we would like, but it’s there if we just look.
“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”
-2 Corinthians 4:6
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of the light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.” -Ephesians 5:8