i thank You God for most this amazing day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(E. E. Cummings)
I have always found healing in nature. During times of desolation, I find comfort in the enormity of creation. The healing magnitude of nature soothes my soul. Over the past several months, I have found it more difficult to sit through a church service. I used to love worship. Now, I grow antsy, the hymns go on forever, and the joy of church has faded. I don’t know, maybe it is a pandemic thing. Maybe I am just getting old and tired. Church, like life, is hard. Lent is hard. The news is hard.
Faith community or any community for that matter, is crucial, yet complicated. People are complex, and not always well meaning. There is scapegoating, projected blame, and immaturity. As one nurse said to me recently, “There is a lot of aggression out there right now.” I find it hard to know how to pray. Trust has never been my strong point. Maybe this is burnout talking?
It is now the Maine woods that offers me calm and refuge. Nature brings me back into communion with God, self, and community. The miraculous is in blue sky, majestic mountains, our oceans, lakes, and the tall pines. The wind calls me to repent, and the clear waters remind me that there is indeed resurrection, and healing.
This Sunday, though, I went to church, and worshipped. The hymns still felt long. Yet the minister’s message touched my heart. He reminded the congregation that we are loved even when Lenten shadows feel unbelievably heavy and sad. The minister spoke of the importance of constancy in theological ritual, particularly during times of war and uncertainty. The Lenten journey is perilous. We join humanity throughout time, hoping beyond hope for peace.
Love, the minister said, reminding us of that passage in Romans. You know the one. The minister paraphrased, “There is nothing that can separate you from God’s love.” Not war, or famine, or nakedness, not angels or demons, or poverty. Not even your own prison of despair from which you are certain there is no escape. God’s love is for all time. God’s love for you is unceasing. The reality of sin and grace weaves its way through history.
Yes, I find God in nature, but today God found me deep within.
Jennifer Stuart is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. She serves as a community minister at First Church in Cambridge, MA, UCC. Jennifer, a clinical social worker specializing in psychological trauma, is a psychotherapist at the Danielsen Institute at Boston University.