“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.”
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you…”
I’ve never known the truth of those words more intimately than over the 5 days I spent in the wilderness of the Canadian Rockies last week.
A few years ago, as I do with travel goals, I started to dream via Google Maps about Banff and Jasper National Parks, putting pins in the places I wanted to see and using spare moments here and there to build an imaginary itinerary. I do this partly as a prayer, partly as a way to scratch the itch of restlessness I often feel about parts of the world I have not seen. But God, as I have come to know very well through this trip, hears all of that and knows it. And I know now to listen when a place keeps coming up in my head and my heart.
This trip lay waiting like a coiled spring, ready to unload at the right moment, and the right moment arrived quickly and unexpectedly late last week. Somehow, I had amassed all the gear I needed when I had never camped on my own before. Somehow, in a schedule that is chronically overloaded, I arrived at a 5 day blank space. Somehow, despite being a “planner” to put it very very lightly, I was completely fine going on a big trip with next to no notice and even less preparation. And somehow, those five days also coincided with a holiday which closed my office for the whole week. I say somehow, but really, I know exactly how. I got on a plane with a carry-on holding a tent, a sleeping bag, some books and some clothes, and knew with a peace I’ve never experienced before that it would all be fine. And the Lord, who had already gone before me, accompanied me every step of the way.
And things weren’t perfect! Tuesday was one of those travelling nightmare days but God’s grace and mercy poured out with each new scheduling debacle. When it looked like I wouldn’t be getting to Calgary until after midnight at one point, God, through a patient and hardworking airline employee and two hours on the phone, got me to Calgary on an already overbooked flight by 6:30pm. It wasn’t in enough time to get my rental car unfortunately, but because of that I got to experience the hospitality of a Canadian cousin of a friend who welcomed me into their home like we were old friends even though we had never met. And moments like that just kept coming and coming. And even in the not-so-perfect moments, like the new Switchfoot song says, “the wound is where the light shines through, the wound is where the light finds you.”
To paraphrase Elizabeth Barrett Browning, How does God love me? Let me count the ways. I wish I could, but they are countless. They are as many as the grains of sand in the desert, as many as the stars in the skies. God wrote me so many love notes in so many different ways that even though I traveled without accompaniment, I never felt alone, not once. Even sleeping on the cold ground in campgrounds where I knew large bears were on the prowl for stray scraps of food, I slept peacefully. Going on long hikes deep into the forests, meadows, and up steep mountains, I walked with the Lord. He brought astounding beauty before me, in flora, fauna, and landscapes. From the tiniest, fragile little forget-me-nots in a meadow, to the sweeping, towering strength of the mountains along the northern Continental Divide, he brought his majesty and splendor to my eyes and fed my soul with his Creation. I often try to enhance sights with sounds by playing music and God met me in that place as well, as he often does. I listened to many hymns that I love while driving some of the most beautiful roads I think the world has to offer, with the windows down and glacial breezes tempering the warm, smiling sun. “All Creatures of Our God and King” says at one point “Let all things their Creator bless, and worship him in humbleness”. I thought, these mountains, these majestic mountains, they are worshiping the Lord simply by being the work of his hands, and they, even they, are humbled by Him. And in the minute resplendence of those little blue flowers, and in the colossal and cataclysmic eminence of those mountains, I knew in a way I’ve never known before that the Lord is in it, and over it all, great and small.
He taught me more about myself and Himself. But of course that’s what happens when you spend quality time with someone and give yourself in relationship, and ask someone else to give themselves. You learn about them, and you often learn more about yourself through that too, if the person is generous and good. We are to always be giving ourselves in relationship to God, always to be blessing the Lord simply by being vessels of his Glory on earth. When the mountains and meadows do that, and when we do that, we bless all who come in contact with us, not by anything we have done, but by being an authentic bearer of the Lord’s boundless love.
Indeed, the Lord allured me into the wilderness, and he spoke tenderly to me in a language meant just for me. I felt so known, so loved, and so met. I am restored and renewed in the light of God’s great provision and sweetness. This time away, steeped in the Glory of the Lord, written into the far corners of this planet, his Creation, has emboldened and empowered me anew to do the work he has given me to do.
Photos: Karla Petty