Walking our Faith: Autumnal observations — a moment-by-moment relationship with God
Walking our Faith
On Monday, I went for a walk on Blue Lakes trail near the Sawmill museum off Boreas Pass Road. It was a leisurely stroll on a beautiful autumn afternoon. As I walked, I took pictures with my phone as I have throughout this autumn.
I took photos of the mountain vistas, the hillside covered with gold, and as I have throughout this season, I took close-up photos. I took photos of the way midafternoon light was caught within pine needles and captured the tall grass bent in the wind mottled green and yellow.
Then I caught sight of one solitary pale-yellow Aspen leaf. I hesitated whether I wanted to photograph the leaf. After all, I was surrounded by a forest of Aspen trees as well as a million similar leaves that had been knocked from their tree limbs onto the forest floor after last weekend’s high winds.
I’ve been so careful about documenting the progression of autumn this year. And I have asked myself more than once why I felt compelled to capture the slow and steady but much too quick march of what is a short season here in the mountains.
I thought it was about learning to live in the moment. I thought my careful observations held some insight about the nature of time and how we spend our lives.
But then, I realized there was a more important lesson to learn. On Wednesday morning, I sat curled in my favorite chair with a cup of coffee reading the first chapter from the Book of James on my iPad.
As I read, I found myself underlining one verse after another. The text was rich with wisdom. And because the Bible app I use (Bible, Life.Church) allows me to access dozens of Bible translations, I reread the chapter noting how each translation added a fresh perspective. When I climbed into bed that evening, I opened the Bible app again and carefully listened to the first chapter of James again in five translations. And that is when I had the epiphany about the meaning behind my careful observation of autumn this year.
When I have been a member of a faith community for decades, it’s easy for one Sunday service to bleed into another and to believe a perfect attendance record is all that is required of my faith journey.
Instead, I discovered this week, my pursuit of God is very much like my pursuit of autumn. In both cases, my experience was enriched when I took the time to be still and pay attention.
My experience of pursuing the wisdom within the first chapter of James by reading it and listening to it over and over again, reawakened my love for God’s word. I realized that reading the Bible needs to be an active pursuit that engages me, as a reader, as a listener, as a student.
Each day, I am called to pay attention to what God is saying in this season of my life. (Because I promise you, as many times as I have read a passage, it is new to me today because I am new today. I am not the person I was 10 years ago.)
No, I don’t have this experience every time I open the Bible, but what I understand is that when I don’t, perhaps it’s because I am in too much of a hurry. I think back to the solitary aspen leaf in the dirt, and I would have missed it if I had been walking too quickly, if I had not paused long enough to stop and take the picture.
I believe God is calling me through my observance of nature, to give that same wonder and stillness and careful attention when I come before him, whether in silent prayer or adoration or the reading of his holy word.
For all my talk of careful observation, the actual time I spend each day gazing at the leaves in the woods outside my home is often as little as 15 minutes. That is sometimes enough. Other days, it might be an hour of walking through the woods.
Sometimes, that is as much time as I can give to reading the Bible or praying. But what I understand now, is that no matter how small or how extravagant the amount of time I offer to God, it is the daily practice that is as needed as my daily walk in nature.
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul longs after You, O God.” (Psalm 42:1) My soul knows what I do not, spending time with God is as necessary as the air I breathe. And as I go, I need to see with my eyes, hear with my ears, open my heart and mind, to pay attention to what God is saying. God is calling me into the wilderness of a deeper relationship. Will I follow?
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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