As a devout Christian, I attend worship services every Sunday and mid-week when possible. Sadly, some believers have begun to shun church membership thinking that it is better not to be surrounded with others who may be hypocritical sinners. Not going to church because it is full of flawed people is like not going to the gym because it has too many out of shape people. We are all struggling with faults and failures. A good church is a hospital for sick souls. I know my spiritual illnesses. So, I get my medication every week from God with my brothers and sisters who love me, and I them.
Taking spiritual medicine only at church on Sunday is no different than following doctor’s orders only in the hospital. Real healing and growth comes from being consistent in nearness to God every day. So, I keep a daily rule consisting of prayers, scripture, and the writings of early Christians. I confess that I am better at keeping this in the mornings than evenings. But, having a standard regimen is very helpful to be repentant, avoid pitfalls, and feel the love of God and others.
I have found that spending time in nature works in concert with my time in church and home. The building and portion of my house where I worship are all man-made. The tiny stream and mighty river that greet me every workday morning were not made by contractors. Even though the trails were created by hard working staff and volunteers, no one makes trees and shrubs. The outdoors is its own cathedral.
Sometimes we Christians forget our heritage in the outdoors. But, our places away from the hassle and hustle of the cities and towns have been quite inspirational. The prophet Elijah fled to Mount Horeb to Jezebel’s persecution (1 Kings 19:1-18). Our Lord taught thousands of seekers in a lonely place and fed them with a few fish and loaves of bread (Mark 6:30-43). Arsenius left the imperial comfort and status of Rome to live silently in the desert. In our times, Seraphim Rose found it far more beneficial to live in prayer and writing in the Platina, California forest than in San Francisco.
Do we all need to become monks and nuns? That is the calling of only a few of us. Do we all have to take major hikes to remote places? Health, time, urbanization, and other issues place limits on where we can go and for how long. But, don’t let these things be excuses to not go anywhere and do anything. Take a pocket New Testament on a city park bench a couple of free mornings. Use your prayer beads and ropes while walking in a suburban green space after work every now and then. Do what is in your tradition right where you are.
Your practice of faith outdoors need not be elaborate. The earth is God’s footstool. Footstools are not centerpieces of our furniture. But, they do add comfort to the weary. And sometimes that little bit of rest they provide is what we need for healing and becoming closer to the One who gives rest.