During this COVID season, we have been spending as much time as we can outdoors. We’re surrounded by screens and phones most of our days, and the isolation gets to us. We need opportunities to set ourselves free – so we race out the door together to explore any chance we get.
We’ve always been hikers. Ever since Caroline was a toddler, we’ve trekked all over these mountains doing short day hikes. We’ve wandered in streams, waded and floated the creeks, and have logged hours on the trails searching for breathtaking views or beings satisfied with the sense of being overcome with nature. Being outside helps us re-center, get our energy out, and we find that we’re free. It’s a huge contrast to the caged feeling we have most days as we stay home and stay safe.
The truth is, we are all happier when we’re outside. The kids play better together (most of the time). They definitely are more joyful. The stress and anxiety seem to melt away. In days when we aren’t able to gather in God’s house for worship (in our physical sanctuaries), the outdoors has become our worship space.
Last weekend, we hiked graveyard fields. It’s a popular hike, and it can easily become overrun with people seeking much the same things we are. So, we hit the trail early. If you’re familiar with it, there’s a nice portion of the trail that is full of blueberry and blackberry bushes. When they’re in season, you can easily find their branches weighed down with delicious wild fruit. Warnings of bear sightings are well marked. We were lucky enough to arrive on a day when the berries were ripe for the picking.
We all love fruit, so the kids were excited about their ability to pick a few berries as we wandered along. They became curious about how the bushes got there. Who planted these here? Whose bushes are these? How did they get here? Why do we have to watch for bears when this hiking trail is for people? It was a beautiful moment to talk about God’s house. I explained that God had planted these berries in the wilderness for God’s creation to enjoy. Many animals call creation their home, and the bears love berries. Our kids loved the idea that we could partake of the same berries that the bears and other animals enjoy. They loved that God’s house came with blackberry bushes for all.
It can be a simple or simplistic concept, but these moments of grace helped to shape our children’s understanding of who God is. These were moments on holy ground. We made sure to leave plenty of fruit on the branches for the other hikers who would join us on the trail later that day. It’s important to remember that God’s grace isn’t just for us, it’s for all. God’s house comes with blackberries, and there are plenty of berries for everyone.