“For you will go out with joy, and be led forth with peace; The Mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12
As the National Parks are celebrated this year, I think of the many visits to the beach with my Mom. In the 6 years she has lived with us, the only thing that tops the sights, smells and sounds of the ocean are visits from her children and grandchildren.
We drive to what is called “The Rincon” in our area of California. It is a small strip of beach nestled between the mountains and the ocean where people park their vehicles and spend an hour or a day enjoying the beauty and power of God’s creation.
We can almost always see the Channel Islands National Park, a chain of islands about 25 miles off the coast of Ventura. And, of course, we are thrilled when a pod of dolphins or grey whales frolic down the coast. I notice the joy on my mom’s face as she looks expectantly over the waves of salt water. It is a quiet, healing time together for both of us.
What makes nature so restorative? Why is it that when we are faced with the splendor of snow-capped mountains, or the multicolored gorges of the Grand Canyon, or when we just sit quietly by a quickly moving stream, that we feel more peaceful?
I believe that it is because nature connects us with the Creator. Scripture states, “For since the creation of the world, His (God’s) invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made…” So when we are surrounded by nature, we behold a part of God Himself! And that connection quiets our inner being. It can fill us with that sense of “shalom” or wholeness, even in the absence of physical health.
The National Parks are magnificent. But if one is not readily available, I find that smaller works of nature can accomplish the same feeling of wellness. A flower garden, a hummingbird feeder, sitting outdoors to read, walking on a nature trail rather than a treadmill, bicycling outside instead of in a spinning class…any of these things will promote health and wellness of the whole person. But nothing brings me to an awareness of God’s presence faster than the power and beauty of the ocean.