This morning I walked my two dogs, Sam and Danny, to the park. My original plan was not to walk anywhere – just chill on my deck with my coffee, bible and journal – in that order! Hey, being Lent I was being good and setting aside some time in the morning to pray right? I hoped God was watching. But nevertheless I felt something nagging me to get out of the house and free my two boys from their prison of the house yard, so off we went. I needed the exercise anyway.
So there I am trudging through the wet grass, sun blinking through the green trees and my Labrador splashing through the creek (with a grin a mile wide) when I was struck – for about the thousandth time – by the power and freshness of nature. I even sang ‘Morning Has Broken’. I found myself in the forest staring in wonder at a massive spider web glistening between the trees, and in that moment I experienced the peace of God. God had been waiting for me, actually; almost like He goes to all this effort to put on a display of epic proportions each morning hoping someone will notice. This seemingly ordinary place was a place of power.
The Church has always tapped into the power of places, hence the practice of pilgrimage to holy places like Jerusalem, Rome, and the famous Camino. People have always journeyed somewhere physical to experience God. Moses led the people of Israel through the desert to Mt Sinai, the prophet Elijah had a special connection with God on Mt Carmel, and Saint Francis of Assisi journeyed to the holy mountain ‘La Verna’. One of my most treasured memories was walking through the forest of La Verna and standing in the very spot where Francis saw a vision of Jesus and received the stigmata. Powerful stuff can happen in physical places!
“We have hardwired into our DNA a connection with physical places; God seems to speak to our souls there in a way that we don’t experience anywhere else”
Do you have a special spot you go to get away? A favourite tree, park, beach, mountain or headland? You wouldn’t be alone; Jesus would often “withdraw to private places and pray”, leading his disciples up mountainsides in order to get away from the craziness of the world and connect with His Father. It’s no different for us than it was for Him. I think we have hardwired into our DNA a connection with physical places; God seems to speak to our souls there in a way that we don’t experience anywhere else, especially when we’re so often locked away in our caves scrolling through electronic devices. For some people it may be their room, their car, yard or back deck.
The important question is; where is it for you? Wherever it is, this Lent, go there. God will be waiting for you.