Cody R. Marks
“Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart.”
― Abraham Joshua Heschel
When I think of faith, I do not think about it as a shrine to visit, but a journey to embrace. Just as nature is always in a state of change, so am I too in a state of change. There are no two days in which I am the same. I am a day older; my hair and nails will get just a little bit longer. It took me awhile to embrace this concept, to see the beauty of change. We tend to focus only on the destination, forgetting the majesty of the sites we encounter along the way.
As people, we enjoy routines and familiar schedules. We go to the same restaurants and likely already know what we want, and we are not always gracious to unexpected changes. One of the things that helped me to realize the beauty of change was through interacting with nature. When I lived in northeastern North Carolina, I would take advantage of the trails near where I
lived, especially when COVID-19 began, and I was unable to go to the gym.
Going on these trails was therapeutic in that I was able to see other people, even if from a distance, along with spending more time in nature. During these walks I would find myself in awe of the nature trails and the beauty of the scenery. It was during this time I would engage in prayer walking, not in the sense of formal prayers, but in the sense of continually speaking and
conversating with God.
I could share my fears, my hopes, dreams, and my concerns about
travelling into the unknown world of COVID-19. There is something transformative about spending time in the wilderness, where in a
season of trial and waiting, where we may find ourselves in circumstances that may seem undesirable. In my own journeys in nature, I have found myself nourished through the taste of nature’s air and in the nourishment of my spirit. Breath, the act of inhalation and exhalation that life is sustained. It was in breath that God created, as Psalm 33:6 states that, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” As I walk through the trials of life, the same breath that created the stars sustains me.
I have since moved to a different part of North Carolina that I was not as familiar with. Being in a new context, isolated with few connections, I decided to find comfort on a new trail.
Its paths were different, as were the people who crossed them. Strangers in a sacred space, created by God, entrusted to us. It was in this space that I felt consummated with my new home, where I developed kinship and trust with my new situation. It was in nature where I was given comfort, company, and a place for communion with God. The beauty of the trails, the sun dancing through the leaves, and the sights of deer running through the woods gave me a taste of God’s artwork. He is a God of creation, who in His wisdom has blessed us with the many elements of creation. He is an artist, and as a people of
books and texts, forget the visual means by which God enriches us. We are a visual people, experiencing life through images, logos, and commercials that saturate our eyes daily. What if in doing this we have lost something important? While we may like visuals, have we considered what images we consume? While we may be aware of where our diets are lacking, we may not be aware that we may need a visual diet. A return to the visuals that God has
given us, that we can experience through all of our senses, a taste that God is good and that He alone is worthy of worship as the Creator of the Universe.
I recall a Christian Literature class I took as part of my undergraduate program, where one of the passages we read came from St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures. Consider the following passage:
“Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs.” St. Francis was not calling for worship of creation, as only God is worthy of worship, but that we could see the sustaining power of God through creation, even ascribing the various elements of natures as siblings, brethren in our shared journey and space. As we wait for the next stage and what will come in the uncertain days ahead, let us continue to be anchored in the faith.
Let us return to creation, where God spoke creation into existence, where He continues to create in our lives, eager to once more commune with us. Let us worship together with our siblings of creation, and together,
sing songs of praise to the Master who is worthy. From a trail, a desert, a
mountaintop, let us sing a song of God’s goodness.