Short thoughts about meeting God outside
A couple weeks ago I had the joy of leading a bunch of middle schoolers through the airport (not the part characterized by joy) and up into the mountains of Colorado for a week of hiking, rock climbing, fishing, and general adventuring. This excursion, which most would characterize as epic, was part of the summer camp programing at Duncan Park, our church’s perfectly rustic camp high up in the Rockies settled along a snowmelt creek a couple miles from the ragged treeless ridge of the Continental Divide.
There was a lot of lead up to this trip; scheming with my friends of staff for a reason to “need” my help for a week, desperately pleading with my wife to parent our baby on her own for 5 full days, offering 1,000 activities for the staff to cramp into one short session, and endless deliberation while packing the day before (I’ll only bring one fly rod; actually packing two, but only bringing my hiking boots and Chacos while leaving behind my trusty Solomon low top shoes). Upon arriving in Denver I was not disappointed; it was as glorious as I remembered. The long drive from the airport towards the mountains with the towering flat-top of Longs Peak in view, up the twisty mountain roads lined with stands of aspen, pine and fir trees, and down the bone-rattling-yet-still-endearing dirt road that ends at the rustic red buildings of Duncan Park. My little pocket of the Rockies filled with the tall and skinny evergreens so different from the oak and cypress of the Hill Country, the roaring of the South St. Vrain swollen with snow melt, the soft pine needle covered forest floor, the perfect granite rock outcroppings and massive boulders, and the flowers! Oh how I missed those flowers!
Easily one of the top 4 perks of spending a summer working in the high mountains of Colorado after spending the school year in Texas is double wildflower season. The bluebonnets, paintbrushes, and mexican hats that line Texas roads throughout the spring easily soothe away any winter blues. But as May arrives and the school year ends while the flowers drop their seed and wither away in Texas, the snow starts to melt in the high reaches of the Rockies preparing the way for color to explode from the earth in June, July, and August. This bonus season of columbines, yellow buttercups, pink shooting stars, and tightly clustered mountain bluebells can overwhelm a heart already filled from the earth’s decadent colors.
Wildflowers have a mysterious joy about them. Emerson is quoted as saying “The earth laughs in flowers.” As I hike through fields of wildflowers and stop to look at their colors and shapes, I can’t help but feel my heart fill with happiness and a smile creep across my face. They are content to be irrelevant, happy to populate the trails less traveled or the secret meadows tucked deep in the forest, and simply delight in the joyous role set out for them in the created order without concern about making a relevant impact on the world. Flowers are content to be who they are with their own gifts and uniqueness, not desiring the purple of the flower to the right or the size of their neighbor to the left. Flowers know living in a high alpine meadow with other flowers of all colors, shapes, and sizes —a community overflowing with joy in such a way that joy spreads to all who interact with it— is the peak of their beauty. (If you didn’t catch on yet, those are all things the people of God are called to)
Wildflowers are also decadent. Now I’m not a botanist and can’t pretend to know the biology of why flowers are the way the are, but surely they don’t need to be colored vibrant reds and yellows, mellow blues, and popping oranges; they don’t need to have such wonderful diversity of shapes; they don’t need to cover that many meadows or line that many roads or fill that many creek banks. Surely wildflowers are at least partially the result of our Creator’s indulgence. Duncan Park is only a couple mile hike up the creek from a recreation area called Brainard Lake. This amazing place sits at the base of the jagged Indian Peaks that form the Continental Divide and is littered with high alpine lakes, lush vegetation and foreboding tree-less landscape. My favorite trail up there is the Jean Lunning Trail, which goes around Long Lake (literally a long lake) and meets up with another trail that leads either to a glacier or over the Divide (aka completely epic no matter what). This trail runs through a massive wildflower meadow that adds beauty and joy to this awe-some landscape. Every time I hike the Jean Lunning, I can’t help but think of Matthew 6, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you— you of little faith?” As I stand on the Jean Lunning, this is hard for me to accept. When faced with this overwhelming beauty, Jesus says we are more important, we will be loved and cared for even more. That’s hard to fathom. Often it’s comfortable to be that loved. But figuring out how to be comfortable in the overwhelming beauty of this landscape and those flowers is good practice to live into that spiritual reality.
Matthew 6 ends with “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” For that, wildflowers certainly seem to be a good model.
By Sam Regonini