I have been watching Ken Burns’ film series on America’s national parks. You can get information on it here: http://www.pbs.org/nationalparks/ I have never been to either Yellowstone nor Yosimite, but want to go to both. I have, however been to the Grand Canyon and Rocky Mountain National Park and understand how the grandeur of the natural world can affect a person. One such person was John Muir. Burns spends a significant amount of time detailing how the life and influence of Muir affected the beginnings of the National Park system.
Muir was a Scottish immigrant brought to this country by his parents while still a child. His father was a sternly religious man whose reason to leave Scotland was because the christian denomination they were attending wasn’t strict enough. They settled in Wisconsin and John was subjected to a mean-spirited variety of christianity (small “c” because I believe John’s treatment by his father was NOT Christian). John was physically forced to memorize huge portions of the bible and beaten when not successful. Ultimately, John committed to memory the entire New Testament and half the Old Testament . How ironic to memorize passages dealing with grace and freedom from the law while suffering under the heavy hand of legalism….
“Alright, try it again, John…”
“Therefore, there is now no consternation…” Thwack!
“Condemnation…. the word is condemnation…. Try it again!”
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of sin and death….” Thud!
“The ‘Spirit of life’ comes first…. you know that, John…”
“…because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerful….” Smack!
“Powerless….’law was powerless….”
I can just imagine a young, trembling John seated at a table reciting from memory words meant to bring the good news of new life and freedom, yet defined in his tender subconsciousness by harsh, unyielding judgement. His father undoubtedly used the words of scripture like a gun in the hands of a bad cop. The weapon is a tool to be used to save and protect, yet enslaves and demeans instead.
Is it any wonder the adult John left both his boyhood home and faith teaching? Yet, when he wandered into the Yosimite valley… I believe something of the original message of the bible found a spiritual harmony with the beauty spanning out before him. John’s vision of the God of the bible, although warped and cracked, must have been clarified somewhat by the grandeur of His creation. The beauty of the earth became John’s gospel, and he it’s John the Baptist. John was an alien of this country by birth, but a native by spirit.
When John tried to stay put, in the civilised world, he would eventually begin to get sick. Returning to the wild, however, would restore his health and vigor. How amazing that he found more dangers in civilization than in the wilderness! He is a man after my own heart. I have to get into the country, or at least around the natural world, every so often. My heart is rejuvenated and body refreshed when I experience God in the beauty of His creation. In fact, I find comfort in the wildness of God. Actually, His unpredictable behavior inspires trust when I look back over my life and although I can’t predict what He will do, I can trust Who He is.
Humans suffer from the mental illness of Control. It is an altered state of consciousness in which we tell ourselves things that aren’t true to accomplish unsustainable goals. I’m not saying we can’t or shouldn’t plan, but we must move with the bronco named Reality to ever hope of riding it. Life is beautiful when we live in harmony with the Creator and the manner in whice we are designed. John Muir saw that harmony modelled in mountains. He learned how to live in harmony with the natural world and found safety and solace in its wildness. That is how God continues to call me back to live my life within the part of the world He has placed me. Living with the wind of the Spirit. Allowing the wild God to tame my heart and lift up my soul.
Yes, I WILL take a walk on the wild side….