Bubble Gum For Starving Souls
I lay down under a pine tree on a ridge top. God has been trying to tell me something for the last hour. Walking among grand scenes of natural beauty there is an emptiness, a mocking hollowness. I see and feel the tension of opposites but cannot pull them together. So I stop hiking, take off my backpack, and lay down and listen with my inner ear. "Bubble gum for starving souls." It keeps repeating in my head. What does that mean?
Beauty to the eyes is as meaning to the soul. Both are fed by what they take in. So what happens when the eye takes in beauty without meaning? What happens when one chews without swallowing? There is the act of eating without nutrition, without new life and energy gained. It is just like bubble gum for the mouth.
Hiking for miles through the pristine wilderness or sitting on the beach at sunset or camping by the quiet lake are all experiences in natural beauty. However, when we engage in these activities in our own way on our own time and without walking side by side with our Father at His pace then we have beauty without meaning, creation without our Creator--bubble gum for a starving soul.
In this column I have encouraged readers to get out into nature for all sorts of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual benefits. Read through previous entries to find many scientific studies that strongly support such conclusions. It becomes clear that human nature was made to be in nature.
However, there is another aspect that must be experienced if we want to do more than die in the pine needles with smiles on our faces. There is much more to nature than collecting images of awesome scenes like we collect baseball cards.
After reading many hiker blogs and talking to backpackers on the trail and in town during resupply, something became painfully obvious to me. It is something I already knew, but now it has been driven home deep into my psyche, probably by my own mistake. You see, I set out on my longest section yet with a cleverly planned pace and deadline so that I could end the week with my family near the destination. That deadline loomed in my mind as difficult conditions kept slowing me down and robbing an hour here and an hour there, until by the end of the week I was more than a day behind behind with no way to recover. (Silly boy!) My plan was ruined and my plan ruined much of my week.
Imagine walking through a flower garden filled with all sorts of scented and colored roses, tulips, irises, daffodils, and other flowers. Now imagine walking with a clothespin on your nose and dark sunglasses on your face. You are in the garden, but the garden is not in you. The aromas and the hues fail to make their full impact. They fail to provide the intended inspiration.
I will never again go on a long hike according to my own schedule. It filters the blessings of God, and filters God Himself, like a clothespin and sunglasses. I will never again go on a hike by myself. It must be with God and at His pace. I will never again sit by a lake by myself. It must be with Jesus.
The sights and sounds and scents of mountain pine and alpine lake and hillside flower and soaring eagle are all orchestrated to be best enjoyed together with Him. Walking in the consciousness of Christ's presence (instead of the looming presence of deadline) gives meaning to everything around me, and meaning to me in the midst of everything. He binds us all into one uplifting experience that brings new thoughts and creativity and significance. Collecting images and stories to impress fellow hikers or couch potatoes back home gives me status but not eternal life. Dying with the most toys probably means I never lived.
Night follows day and day follows night. Clears skies get drowned with rain then turn blue again. Summer flowers wilt then droop then get buried by snow only to reappear again. Nature, in and of itself, is nothing more than a continuous cycle of life and death, color and dark, good and evil. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, said the preacher.
However, to experience any or all of the good and the evil with my Father gives me everlasting memories that interconnect into webs of meaning. Following the Lamb where ever He goes and how He goes means that I travel from significance to significance, from glory to glory. I am given insights to share, not mere visual reports to tell. My heart is filled with spiritual nourishment, instead of my brain filled with bubbles from merely chewing beautiful bubble gum.
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"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures:
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul:
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake."
by Ed Lyons, 6/29/2018