This past weekend I backpacked with my friend Greg into the Big South Fork National Recreation Area. For the whole previous week, one thing after another seemed to block the trip, but at the very last minute, the doors opened for us to go. We jumped in the car and soon entered the world of the wilderness for three days and two nights. Of the many gifts we were given on the trip, two stand out: unwinding and reminding (thanks to Greg for this wording).
The world, you see, winds us up tightly with its incessant deadlines and urgent decisions. We coil the winding tighter with our own concerns and fears. The result is that our inner life takes on a frantic pulse, unable to stop and rest, unable to sit still in the love of God. I feel this inside of me as a baseline anxiety that dogs my steps most days, like an unwanted shadow. But out among the panoramic views and lush greenery, we both were able to unwind. There was no cell phone coverage, no Internet, and even no schedule. We began to take on the rhythms of the day, falling asleep as darkness enveloped us and then rising with the awakening sun. The unwinding continued as we gazed at flowers, shared our hearts, and walked in the beckoning silence of the forest.
The second gift followed the first: in the unwinding came the reminding. Each campsite was nestled beside a stream of water. We not only bathed in its cool freshness and fell asleep to its gentle lullaby, but also sat quietly each morning by its babbling sound, journaling and praying. Here we were both reminded of the nearness and presence of the Father.
For me it came this way: I was struck by the relentless love of God, who created everything and sustains it all by His presence. The flowing waters and rugged rocks, the solidity of the trees and gracefulness of the wind — it’s all a gift, a gift for us to enjoy and acknowledge and then become aglow with gratitude. But the reminding went further: I saw my own life as a gift, from conception to manhood — all my memory and understanding, all my abilities and propensities — I too am created and sustained by the relentless love of God, every hour and minute and second. Each of us is held in His hands this way, as our very being finds its ground and life in Him.
Yet the sadness of my life, the sadness of all our lives, is that we forget and try to run on our own steam, both ruining ourselves and grieving Him. But by those flowing waters each morning, I was reminded that it’s all a gift, a gift from a Lover who longs for those He loves to receive and acknowledge. As we backpacked out the last day, I was moved to tears over the sadness of our forgetfulness and rejection of this Lover. In that sadness, I asked the Lord what He would want me to do. In the quiet of the wilderness, I heard His gentle whisper: “Love Me back.”
In the end, that is His deep hope for each of us, that we will love Him with all of our being and so return the love that began in Him. This is the circulation of love that all lovers long for, and so it is with the One who is Love Himself.
May you be reminded of His love today, unwind in it, and then radiate it out to all around you. This is His deep hope for you.
It is also your deepest joy.