Three thousand years ago, King David wrote in Psalm 55: 6-7, “Oh, how I wish I had wings like a dove; then I would fly away and rest! I would fly far away to the quiet of the wilderness” (NLT). Some three thousand years later, American author, environmental advocate, and political anarchist, Edward Abby,” wrote in his widely popular book, Desert Solitaire, “We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. . . . We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis.”
No two people could be further apart spiritually or philosophically than Israel’s ancient King David (c. 1000 BC) and the late Edward Abbey (1927 – 1989). Yet I’m certain both would have an answer to this question: Why do I (and as far as I can tell the vast majority of people) always experience feelings of tranquility and delight when hiking and exploring wild nature—and when back home have an irrepressible yearning to return?
Abbey would likely answer this question by pointing out that the human race, especially people living in urban and suburban environments, have a genuine psychological need for regular contact with wild, unspoiled nature. On the other hand, I suspect King David’s answer would be more in line with my own: Wild nature offers peace, quietude, and restoration—a place for spiritual reflection and insight.
The fact is King David and Abby are both correct. The human family possesses a psychological and spiritual longing to maintain contact with nature.
In the blog articles following this one, I’ll demonstrate that God has in fact revealed certain of his divine qualities and eternal character in and through nature. Thus, the family of man’s universal desire to associate with nature is spiritual in origin. It reflects an innate longing to encounter God that God himself has placed within the human heart, and nature (among other ways) can be a first step to fulfilling this longing. This is also the basis for people’s psychological desire to maintain some contact with the natural world, as recent studies in human behavior reveals. (I’ll demonstrate how this plays out in next week’s blog.)
What’s particularly wonderful about God’s self-disclosure in and through nature, and the reason nature can be an effective apologetic and evangelistic point of contact, is that it is available to all people everywhere, regardless of religion, culture, or period of human history. God has revealed enough information about himself in creation that nature can be a springboard for any serious spiritual seeker desiring a deeper, fuller understanding of God. (Through the Bible and the Christian witness.)
Exploring this remarkable fact, and helping readers discover what they can learn about God and themselves through nature, is the primary goal of this series of blog articles. And in case you think this will be a theologically challenging, esoteric, or mystical journey, don’t worry. It won’t be. With a little reflection, apprehending what I’m going to share will not be difficult at all, because I will use illustrations, analogies, and events taken directly from nature itself—many of which you will already be familiar with!
In next week’s blog we’ll begin our “spiritual journey of discovery” together, starting at my own home. ©