By Rick Mastroianni
On June 30, Kit and Greg Elmer hosted a creation retreat for some nature-starved urban pilgrims. I was seeking refuge from my fast-paced electronic, mechanical and artificial world.
The Elmer’s home has a backyard gate that’s like Professor Kirke’s wardrobe passageway to Narnia. Ordinary suburban Baltimore gives way to acres of lush forest that surround the Loch Raven Reservoir — an ideal spot to find rest and absorb creation’s restorative beauty.
Greg has a command of the scientific and aesthetic aspects of creation and how it assists our spiritual formation. He prepared us for our encounter with God in nature by showcasing the vast immensity of the cosmos and its microscopic intricacy — how God reveals himself and beacons to us in nature’s simplicity, beauty, harmony, proportion, wholeness and radiance. Nature’s rhythms inform the rhythms of spiritual formation and we had time in nature to experience and practice this.
After passing through the Narnia-like gate and into the canopy of trees, I settled by a shaded stream just listening to the rapid but unhurried flow — feeling the cool of it to get some relief from the heat.
I found myself fashioning a prayer for my spiritual formation that echoes God’s “let there be” declarations that spoke forth all the beauty, wonder and organic abundance flourishing before me. I surrendered as best I could my futile attempts at mechanical, self-propelled spirituality and prayed something along these lines:
- “Lord, let there be light — in me. Your light. You spoke forth radiance from darkness over the surface of the deep; Speak forth light into my darkness too.
- “Lord, let there be life — in me. Your life. Full life. Abundant life like the flourishing abundance of the green that surrounds me. Life that is truly life.
I reflected on how the Gospel of John reveals Jesus as the living Word who declared “let there be” and that he is the Light, the Life and the Love at the source of it all and the sustainer of it all.
- “Lord, let there be love — in me. Your love. Self-giving, redemptive, healing love.
Let all the cosmic power you employ to unleash multiverses and scatter stars unleash your light, life and love in me and through me.”
It was helpful to put an all-day spotlight on creation. It felt as though I was simply cooperating with and taking my place amid all the effortless abundance and flourishing that surrounded me. It’s challenging to keep that perspective in my artificial everyday surroundings. I’m finally realizing just how essential it is for me to carve out time in nature and let it accompany me and tutor me about the Creator on my spiritual journey.