Back in the day, four of us college guys were home for Christmas and decided to go camping on New Year’s Eve. It was already dark when we headed into our northern Minnesota woods, and by moonlight, we plodded through a foot of snow, staying in each other’s footsteps.
After quite some time my friend suddenly announced, “Oh no, we forgot the tent!” One of the guys collapsed to his back in laughter, and we asked, “Are you laughing because we forgot the tent?” When he caught his breath he answered, “No, but the mosquitoes are going to eat us alive!”
We eventually constructed a shelter from spruce boughs, and banked snow to reflect the campfire’s heat as the temperature dropped to zero. We sat around a catalytic heater playing cards, but our little heater was not the solution to tent-less winter camping, so two of us decided to take a hike. We eventually came to a resort filled with festive New Year’s revelers, and I said to my friend, “Of all these people, we’re the only ones planning to sleep in the woods on spruce boughs tonight.” Before long, we backtracked to our primitive campsite.
By luck I had brought two foam pads, not considering their insulation value against the frozen ground. Two of us slept – the other two froze – and at sunrise I saw the shadowy figure of my brother running through the trees – his seventh run of the night!
Jesus and his disciples also camped – for three years – and someone said that their still believing in Jesus proves his divinity. Seriously though, nature is where we encounter God when our world gets too noisy. God is everywhere, but we often hear him best in nature.
I once faced a huge decision and went camping alone. For five days I prayed and fasted in solitude, and rediscovered that although alone, God was there; though fasting, he fed me; and though silent, he spoke, and gave me the direction I needed.
Jesus also loved spending time in nature – in fasting and solitude – and is our example for how we can experience God’s presence and hear him speaking. So, as we move into this new year, I encourage you to set aside times to step back, spend time in nature, and reconnect with the One who loves us.