Nature’s role in spiritual formation


Moving our headquarters to West Texas this year I have had many people in my local community ask me. “Wilderness Trek. What do they do?”. My simple and quick answer is, “We provide spiritual formation through outdoor activities like backpacking and climbing.” This is usually followed up by a few seconds of awkward silence while they let that soak in then one of two things happen. Some people say, “neat” and move on to other subjects. Others, however, are obviously intrigued and say something like, “That is so cool! So, you guys are just an outdoor group?” Ummmm, sort of.

It is easy for many people to think that we are just “backpacking for Jesus” or “church groups who go outside together”. To be completely honest with you, that is what I thought 25 years ago when I first got involved with Trek. Back in the early 90’s, there was a push to “capture” everything for Christ by throwing a Jesus label on something and calling it dedicated to God. Before I started working with Trek in 1995, I assumed that is what Wilderness Trek had done, grabbed some backpacks and some bibles and thrown the two together in an attempt to mesh something sacred with something fun. Then I met everyone involved.

The power of Wilderness Trek has always been the people involved. From time to time we get someone who just loves to backpack and uses Jesus as an excuse to get there, but the vast majority of our staff, volunteers, and leaders love Jesus and see Trek as an outpouring of how we grow His Kingdom.

The “cause” of Trek is to bring people to Christ through outdoor experiences, it is not about the outdoors themselves. As passionate as we are about mountain summits, blaze orange sunsets or the reflection of the trees on a mountain lake, we are more excited about giving people experiences that reconciled them with their creator. Wilderness Trek is about giving people opportunity to connect with their creator through His first creation, nature.

 

How is this possible? I will explain.

 

Let’s call Gods earthly creation of plants, earth, stone, water, trees, mountains, lakes and the weather simply, “nature”. In Gen 1 we see God create the “heavens and the earth” first. (Gen 1:1) In verse 2 we see that “the earth was without form and void” then God got engaged in our world and started doing what God does best, created. First light, then water, then plants and vegetation. Next God set his creation in motion by making it regenerate and replenish itself. “And God said, let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seeds, and fruit trees bearing fruit” v.11. Then God solidified the circle of life by making it infinitely in motion by creating “signs and seasons” v14. All of this in the first 4 days.

Think about that for a second. Over half of the time God spent creating that which we know, was spent on creating our natural environment. That sounds pretty important. So, what does this have to do with the mission of Wilderness Trek? Simple. It’s our job to re-introduce (in some case introduce) you to Gods creation for the sole purpose of giving you space to connect with God. It is our deep belief that while spending time outdoors in nature that the creator (God) his first creation (the environment) and His created (that’s you!) have a chance to commune and reconnect with each other.

It is not about backpacking, or climbing a mountain, or even fishing or rafting, it is about connecting with the God of the universe in order to grow spiritually and to “Be imitators of God” (Eph 5:1) We just happen to think that the best way to connect with God is through enjoying His creation. We understand the power of being outside in the sun, watching a sunset over a peak, pushing yourself to walk further, climb higher, or dig deeper than you knew you could. But the experience is not the end, the experience of pushing yourself outdoors brings you to the place of surrendering to God. What better place to do that than in His first creation, nature?

So yes, we love Jesus and we love outdoor recreation. But our cause, our passion our deepest desire, is much bigger than great summits and breath-taking views. Our passion is connecting others with Gods purpose, calling, and direction for their lives. God’s creation is waiting for you! What are you waiting for? Go outside and connect with God!

PT

*If you need help getting jumpstarted with your faith walk. Check out one of our summer trips. We would love to help.

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