At a time in which prayer was especially challenging, I found the joy of hiking. When the well from which I draw my prayers wasn’t dried up, the words of my prayers were hostile; I was overwhelmed and angry, and while I wasn’t sure God’s role in it all, I knew in some ways, God was to blame. Then, I saw the the bright sunlight filtered through vibrant green leaves. I saw the beautiful abandon of wild flowers in the forest. I saw the ways in which nature makes way for things to grow as well as for things to die. And then I remembered how to pray, I remembered how to breathe, and in many ways I remembered that the only way to move through this world is to walk slowly and take a deep breath.
This world moves too quickly to notice all the beauty that surrounds us; most of us rush from event to event without being able to see just how abundantly God has adorned this world with beautiful things and beautiful people. We have to slow down; to run the course of this life requires that we be able to slow down or we will exhaust ourselves with our self-imposed hurry.
A fellow university chaplain, Charles L. Howard, in his book Pond River Ocean Rain, writes about finding stillness, peace, and, then also, finding God: “The path is narrow and shaded by a whispering green canopy provided by strong oaks, willows, and pines. Its flora-lined walkway seems to invite those who walk slowly enough to breathe in the calm and wonder that emanates from these little fragile witnesses watching at their feet.”
We all are walking a path, and it’s up to us to notice the ways in which those things and those people who surround us on this path point us to the wonder and the joy of God; it’s up to us to walk slowly, to breathe deeply, and to give thanks to God for all that has brought us here and all to which this path will lead.
The seasons are changing here. Soon the flowers that line the path will be covered with warm-colored leaves and the air that greets us as we leave our houses or our places of work or study will be crisp with a slight chill. The changing of the seasons often brings a hurried nature; the community begins to pack in events before winter comes, the pressure of the second half of the year begins to weigh us down, or the depth of the middle of the semester begins to become a slog. Resist the urge to run past this slow change that nature takes on this time of year; resist the urge to pine for the end of the semester or the turn of the new year. Remember that you and all that you encounter are created in beauty and holiness; remember that God is present with us in more ways than we can imagine. Remember to walk slowly and take a deep breath.