When he sent them away, he went up onto a mountain by himself to pray. Evening came and he was alone. — Matthew 14:23
I have a theory that if you grew up on a farm, you probably don’t have a strong affinity for camping. If you’ve been out in the natural world all day, why would you want to sleep in it? A comfortable home and soft bed seem a lot more appealing.
I was recently invited to an overnight campout with friends. It was at a campground along the banks of the Current River, in southern Missouri. It takes effort to make preparations, pack the car, drive a couple of hours, and somehow figure out how to set up the tent. Yet, there’s a reason people love doing this. Connecting to the good earth, free from news feeds and cell phones, is magical. A colorful sunset. The sounds of the evening. A cool breeze. A smoky, crackling campfire. The conversation and laughter of friends.
A campout is a good reminder that even Jesus needed to get out, away from the world’s craziness, and get in touch with the awe and mystery you can only find in nature. When God called creation good, that was a hint: we need to get out in it so we can be reminded that such goodness is woven into our very being, and nothing can take that away.
With the cooling days and the coloring of leaves, can we find no better way to recharge our souls than to sit alone with God on a hillside and simply marvel?
The American poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote a poem that inspired the hymn, “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.” One of the verses goes,
O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity
Interpreted by love!
May we each, in our own way, experience the calm of hills above.