Finding God with Nature Walks

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As the seasonal weather and the world around us change, our end destination is the same. This beautiful post about nature walks by my dear friend Amy inspires me to intentionally go out in nature to remind me that God's greatest desire for us is to find Him.

Since March 2020, my husband and I have taken up the habit of (mostly) daily walks. We have walked on windy days, rainy days, cool days, hot days (SO, SO very many hot days!!).  The walks are a nice break from the work of the day and have become a lovely way to reconnect with each other, with nature, and with God.

While our path varies, there is a particular area we tend to walk by each time.  It contains a meandering stream, many trees, native plants and wildflowers.  And, within this lovely natural habitat, we’ve seen (and heard) a lot of small, suburban wildlife.

The walks began with the bright green of spring buds, pink primroses, and dainty white daisy-like flowers.  Rabbits & hopping robins sought out breakfast on the ground while blue swallows filled the air with their aerobatics as they chased after flying insects. Rains filled the little stream and we saw it overflow its banks –usurping the sidewalk path, roaring past, taking trees & branches with it.

As spring edged into early summer, the pastel buds changed to dark green leaves.  Bright orange Indian paintbrushes, tall sunflowers & small, yellow coneflowers took up residence in the grass.  Buzzing bees, flies, and the ever present mosquitoes took over the air. The stream calmed, and we’d see little fish swimming and turtles sunning themselves on the banks - occasionally flopping into the water with a little splash.

And now, as late summer fades into fall, thistles that look like tiny purple pineapples, wispy goldenrod, and a giant flowering bush with a less than pleasant smell have started to emerge. Jumpy grasshoppers, screaming cicadas, and the mosquitoes (yes, still!!) seem to surround us.  Coyotes from the not-so-distant field can be heard yelping in the evenings.  Monarchs float by on the warm breezes that come through.  The hot summer sun has turned the stream into a small trickle.

In his Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas says the fifth way to come to know God is from nature.  “We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end.”  (Summa Theologica Part 1, Question 2, Article 3, Corpus).  The end of an animal (or plant) is to “be fruitful and multiply” and they do whatever they can to achieve this end before they reach their own end.  They find food, water, shelter and preserve themselves as best they can.  The migratory birds and butterflies will always travel to warmer climates.  The flowers and plants will always seek out the sun.  And they are able to do this because of how God has ordered them to be this way and ordered the rest of the world around them.

As people created in the image and likeness of God, our end is Heaven.  Carlo Acutis was an Italian teen who was named a ‘blessed’ in 2020, only 14 years after his death. He reportedly had a strong devotion to Mary and the Eucharist. This newest saint-to-be is known to have said, “The infinity is our homeland. We are always expected in Heaven.” Carlo knew his end goal and he ordered his life to help him reach that goal.  There were challenges in his way, but with his faith and through his actions, we have hope that he achieved that end.

It has been an amazing thing to see all these changes and marvel at the way everything in nature works together.  The warmer spring weather made insects and new plants plentiful - providing a generous feast for the birds & rabbits.  The newly leafed trees are a lovely place to hide a little nest with bright blue eggs.  The flowers and plants provide an energy source for bees and butterflies and a bit of camouflage for the grasshoppers.  The stream, at various points, has provided for birds, turtles, fish, snakes, mosquitoes, and many other creatures.   And the giant flowering bush with the ‘less than pleasant’ smell?  Well, the monarchs LOVE it. In every way, God has provided for the plants & animals - from one season to the next.

And just as God has ordered the way for bugs and birds, flowers and plants, so, too, has he been preparing the way for you. Yes, even in the craziness that is this year!

Maybe your path is smooth and level right now, and you’re catching a short break, floating on a breeze like the butterfly.  Maybe your path is being overtaken by worries that loom in the distance - like the yelping coyotes.  Maybe it seems like everything is just rushing at you right now - worries about health and home, family and finances - usurping any discernible boundaries, like the stream after a spring storm.  Wherever you find yourself this year, I hope you can see God’s hand in a great thing or in the thousand little things, putting things in order so that we can “achieve our end”.

After all, we are expected in Heaven.

 

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