Being submerged in God’s creation can cause us to worship. I know that for myself, all you have to do is throw me into a forest for a few minutes and I’ll get lost in thought and wonder. These moments strike me even harder these days since I am usually surrounded by the lackluster of the concrete jungle and the off-brand version of nature it offers me. The most intimate time I get with God each week based on my surroundings is the early Sunday morning walk to church, while the birds and squirrels sing and chirp around me and the rest of the city sleeps.
I now find myself taking occasional day trips up north to my family’s cabin. The building itself isn’t all that appealing as it feels unfinished in many ways. But its location in God’s creation is incredible. After you traverse the mile-long driveway through an open field, you’ll arrive at the old cabin and its scenic view off of the Little Muskegon River. Other than a clearing for a group to enjoy the campfire, the cabin is surrounded by so much forest that you almost can’t find the building on Google Maps. The sacred space is free of many distractions; phones lose signal and the cabin typically only has power at night when we turn the generator on. This fills me both with torture and serenity.
I’m caught off guard by the beauty of nature there. One morning I woke up early and took a prayer walk through the property with the extended version of Jonathan David and Melissa Helser’s song, Abba, as my soundtrack. I had forgotten that they had recorded a choir of birds into the song and it accented my walk perfectly. But after nearly eleven and a half minutes, the song faded out and I was simply left with a chorus of birds. How long does this go on for? I thought to myself.
That’s when I took my headphones off and realized there never were any birds in the song—they had been singing around me in real life the whole time. It was at that moment that I pulled up my voice memos app, hit record, set my phone in the grass, and continued my walk, returning back to get my phone a good half hour later. I wanted to capture that moment.
But even that moment wasn’t free of the sound pollution of modern day technology. I used the recording I made that day in the opening story of my audiobook, A Taste of Jesus. As I put an EQ on the track to emphasize the ambience correctly, I started to hear distant cars and what sounded like airplanes. Even out in the middle of a field, a mile from the nearest road, I was not entirely untouched by sound pollution.
In fact, hardly anywhere is free of it. Sound engineer, Gordon Hempton, decided to travel across the United States in search of a quiet place. He found about a dozen sites that you couldn’t hear human-made noise for at least 15 minutes at dawn.
But still, the cabin is about as close as I can get to submerging myself in nature. It’s the perfect place to meet up with God and chat and the nature in all of its magnificence naturally turns my gaze towards him.
This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Alien Theology: The God of Two Trillion Galaxies. Coming late 2017.
Tippett, Krista, and Gordon Hempton. “Silence and the Presence of Everything.” On Being, 29 Dec. 2016, onbeing.org/programs/gordon-hempton-silence-and-the-presence-of-everything/. Accessed 7 Nov. 2017.