Nature walks always take my mind away from the insanity of life’s daily grind. I welcome the distraction and the retreat! Hiking is probably my favorite, although I rarely (read: “never”) go hiking alone. I am able, however, to take a stroll around a local lake or in a wooded park fairly routinely for some time to myself. As a documented introvert, I enjoy a very lively “inner life” with all sorts of ideas and creations dancing inside my head. But during these walks, the mental move away from the busy-ness of the world is not a move into my head. It is a real sense of connection with God and a time to listen and to pour out my heart to him.
I feel certain that all of my recent decisions and major upsets were reconciled on walks. (Those that were not most assuredly should have been.) I can tell when a walk is going to become more than just a way to burn some stress or calories. If there is some soul-cleansing to be done, I am always first overwhelmed by an awareness of beauty and a strong sense of gratitude. It doesn’t take much of anything to trigger it. It could be a particularly comforting breeze, an unusually shaped tree trunk or branch, a singing bird, or a colorful and random mushroom. Then comes the awareness that God is there – an overwhelming sense that he has not only been there, but that he IS there . . . and that we should talk. I usually try to listen first, because that is pretty much all you can do when you sense God.
It’s tricky, of course, to discern what God is speaking from what you might manufacture in your own thoughts and desires, projecting those things on him. There aren’t “12 steps” to figuring that out, but it develops over time and with lots of practice. Plus, I don’t think every quiet time with God has to produce something instructional or life-changing for us. We can’t manufacture the time, place, or setting for God to speak. Sometimes, we need to just be content with an intimate, quiet walk together. Everything we could ever need, after all, is in his presence.
Is there a special place where you sense God most? Would you be willing to share your story as a comment to this post? Speaking for myself and probably many others, I would love to hear all about it!