Walking Our Faith: Finding the meaning of our relationship with God in nature
June 23, 2017
Morning walks with my Newfoundland dogs are an experience of vibrant colors so stark that they stand against one another, sharp delineated lines that can only be found in nature when all is new and full of strength. Against a cloudless cerulean sky, Quandary Peak cuts the sky with sharp-edged steel colored rock emerging from vestiges of winter snow and sinking into pine green forests as my eye travels down the mountain's flank to earth to the dirt road covered in a fine chalky layer of dust begging for rain.
We celebrated the summer solstice this week, but in my neighborhood, the verdant chartreuse of the leaves tells me spring is rushing headlong to catch up with the calendar. Yet, the birds know where they are meant to be on this day. The variety of birdsong filling the morning air is far richer and varied than it was three weeks ago. Instead of one, I hear at least three different songs, along with the saucy buzz of a hummingbird, who firmly believes he's about his business and I should be about mine.
Last week, when I had pneumonia, one of the "little books" I read was "The Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air" by 19th century theologian and philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard. He wrote a 51-page treatise on 10 verses from the sixth chapter of Matthew, a simple and beautiful parable told by Jesus using common symbols from nature to demonstrate God's love for us. These verses seem apropos of not only the lushness of late spring that greets me each morning, but also where I am in my walk of faith.
"Look at the birds! They don't worry about what to eat — they don't need to sow or reap or store up food — for your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. Will all your worries add a single moment to your life?
"And why worry about your clothes? Look at the field lilies! They don't worry about theirs. Yet King Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as beautifully as they. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won't he more surely care for you, O men of little faith?
"So don't worry at all about having enough food and clothing. Why be like the heathen? For they take pride in all these things and are deeply concerned about them. But your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them, and he will give them to you if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you to.
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"So don't be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time." (Matthew 6: 26-34)
The parables of Jesus are multi-layered with wisdom for us to discover as we spend time and attention in the scripture. Just as we are called to notice the beauty of our surroundings, the parable also asks us to consider how God's love is expressed very practically in our daily lives.
How do we trust in God's provision? The scripture responds: "So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'… your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
What does it mean to seek first God's kingdom? Our natural response is to create a list of activities that demonstrate our eagerness to please God. Counterintuitively, Kierkegaard instructs us that first we must stop. Stop striving, become silent. We must stop our impetus to take matters into our own hands. Rather, our silence and inaction enable us to turn our complete attention to God, and thereby seek God's kingdom first.
Only when our hearts and minds quiet enough to hear God's thoughts, God's will, God's perfect desire for our lives is God truly our priority. In our inaction, we "seek first the kingdom of God" because finally, when we have given up all our own efforts we can see God as first in our lives, not by our own efforts but because we have surrendered all of our striving to God.
When I go out for a morning walk with my dogs and my mind is filled with worry and plans of what I must accomplish today, I miss the colors of nature. I miss the birdsong. And most certainly, I miss the "still, small voice of God." Only when I quiet my mind can I be present to experience the beauty of my surroundings, to acknowledge that in this moment all is well, and that in the silence, I can experience God's assurance. To be silent amid worry is the first expression of our trust in God's goodness.
Over the next three weeks, I look forward to continuing to share what I learn from Kierkegaard's treatise on this parable of the birds and flowers, how it impacts my life, and what it can teach us about living more fully in God's presence. I hope you'll find time this week to go outside and experience the beauty of God's creation with a silent mind and a heart open to God's voice.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson is the author of "A Map of Heaven." She lives in Breckenridge. Join her at http://www.Facebook.com/suzanneelizabeths.
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